AngelTouched by ’Angel’
By Maureen Ryan
Sunday 23 May 2004, by Webmaster
A fond farewell to the small but superb show that proved vampires are people, too
The evil weasels at the WB canceled "Angel," and the show’s final episode aired May 19. If there was a hell dimension handy, we’d toss the meanies that run the WB network into it.
Yes, "Angel" was a cult show on a smaller network (this season an average of about 2.8 million households tuned in each Wednesday, according to Nielsen Media Research). Yes, it was a lowly spinoff from another cult show, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." And unlike your average network drama, it showcased a brooding, soulful vampire with a complicated hairstyle (David Boreanaz as the title character), who was surrounded by a gang of wisecracking, apocalyptic evil-combating sidekicks.
Not exactly "CSI: Los Angeles," was it?
But that’s one of the things that made it so great — you certainly couldn’t accuse "Angel" of being a copycat show. And once Joss Whedon, who co-created "Angel" with David Greenwalt, and the show’s writing crew really hit their stride, "Angel" actually topped the much-praised "Buffy" in terms of character development, visuals and spectacularly involving plots.
Too bad the love the show inspired in its fans — who swamped WB execs with letters, cards and even a "save our show" billboard or two when "Angel’s" cancellation was announced in February — never translated to high ratings. Well, the WB’s loss is . . . er, our loss too. At least we may have (according to news reports) future "Angel" TV movies to look forward to — and for latecomers to the party, the entire series is in the midst of being reissued on DVD.
But until then, we’re looking back on all the things that made "Angel" such a savior to fans of quality television — and recalling the show’s valuable educational components, as well.
5 CHARACTERS WE LOVED
1. Wesley Wyndam-Pryce (Alexis Denisof): No character on the show (aside from Gunn) changed more; he went from prissy, bookish uber-Brit to tough yet melancholy butt-kicker.
2. Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter): We didn’t know how much this spitfire brought to the show until the departed Cordy (who spent a long time off-camera in a "coma") came back for one episode during Season 5.
3. Lilah Morgan (Stephanie Romanov): This evil (or not so evil?) lawyer’s relationship with Wesley was layered with heaping spoonfuls of love, hate, disgust and attraction. Delicious.
4. Daniel Holtz (Keith Szarabajka): Angel murdered his family (back when Angel was bad). This made Holtz very, very mad. And it made him the most compelling nemesis Angel’s fang gang ever had.
5. The Groosalugg (Mark Lutz): "Groo," a character from Lorne’s wacky home dimension, was a courtly, winning hero who won fair Cordelia’s hand (for a time, anyway).
5 CHARACTERS WE DIDN’T LOVE
1. Lindsey McDonald (Christian Kane): This Wolfram & Hart lawyer bugged us at first, but he was slightly less annoying as time went on. Just slightly.
2. Eve (Sarah Thompson): The insipid "liaison to the senior partners" of the evil law firm Wolfram & Hart didn’t impress us much. Especially when she started liaising with the oily Lindsey McDonald. Ick.
3. Darla (Julie Benz): Lots of people love Angel’s fellow vamp, but we don’t. Her breathy voice and hammy acting made her a pain in the neck.
4. Spike (James Marsters): Love the actor, love the character, but eventually he was given too much screen time on "Buffy" and then on "Angel," where too much Spike-osity almost ruined the ensemble nature of the show.
5. Kate Lockley (Elizabeth Rohm): If you see the first couple of seasons of "Angel" on DVD, trust us — just close your eyes and hum loudly whenever this character, an L.A. cop who keeps crossing paths with Angel, comes on the screen. You’ll thank us.
LESSONS I LEARNED FROM WATCHING ’ANGEL’
1. Friends stay friends, no matter what: So you’ve ascended to a higher plane of existence, as Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) mysteriously did during the third season — don’t worry, your friends will be there for you when you return to Earth. If you happen to be transformed into a powerful, probably not-so-nice, godlike entity, as Fred (Amy Acker) did this season, no matter. Your friends will stick with you, if only, as in Fred’s case, to mourn who you used to be. The point is, friends stick together, weathering each other’s ups and downs, even if those "ups" include trips to heaven and the "downs" drag everyone into hell.
2. But you do pay a price for your questionable actions, even among friends: Let’s say, for example, one friend — with only the best intentions — kidnaps another friend’s only begotten child (these things happen, right?). When just that scenario went down between Wesley (Alexis Denisof) and Angel, the consequences were severe: After Angel’s son was dragged into a hell dimension by a bad guy, Angel and his fang gang angrily (but temporarily) exiled well-intentioned kidnapper Wesley from the gang. And when Fred and Gunn (J. August Richards) paid a call on the man who had sent Fred to yet another hell dimension (on this show, hell dimensions are more common than convenience stores), the complications that ensued drove the couple apart. So, your friends will usually stick by you, but please try to keep hell dimensions out of the picture.
3. Equal opportunity applies to bloodsuckers too: The rules of vampire life have become much more flexible (and management friendly). Specially treated glass for office buildings and cars allows for a 24-hour workday — no more skulking back to the coffin at dawn. Any other obstacles are no match for the staff of L.A. law firm Wolfram & Hart, which Angel and Co. took over during Season 5. In fact, with an ample supply of pig’s blood on hand, being a vampire is nothing more than another lifestyle choice!
4. Being bad doesn’t mean you can’t be redeemed: At one point, Angel reverted to his super-bad-guy status (being happy for a single moment turns Angel into a scary hell-dude). But his friends did all they could to restore him to his formerly cuddly (yet broody) state. And though Fred has turned into one heck of an angry (and overly talkative) she-goddess named Illyria (above), her friends still love her, or what she used to be. That’s devotion, since remaining in Fred/Illyria’s general area could be kind of unsafe.
5. Even if your life revolves around doing good, repenting, saving the world and the time-consuming application of hair gel, you don’t have to be super-serious all the time: For an episode midway through Season 5, Angel was turned into a pint-size puppet (above), and one of the series’ high points had to be his rendition of "Mandy" at a demon-infested karaoke bar. Can that vampire vamp or what?
3 MISSED OPPORTUNITIES
1. Where did the Lorne (right) love go? The comic delivery of Andy Hallett, who played the green lounge-lizard/demon Lorne always had us in stitches, and any guy who survives his own beheading gets props from us. But in Season 5 he got just a few lines per episode, much to our chagrin, and Season 4’s "Lorne in Vegas" episode had potential but it just didn’t click. Is it unrealistic to hope that Lorne gets his own spinoff variety show?
2. Fred and Wesley’s sad story: Because Joss Whedon is a sadist, when this obvious couple finally got together (after years of mutual attraction), their budding relationship was cut short by Fred’s transformation into the vengeful goddess Illyria. Bummer.
3. Angel and Cordelia’s sad story (below): The writers were clearly hinting that these two were going to get together, and we’re not quite sure why they didn’t (actress Charisma Carpenter’s mysterious disappearance from the show during the middle of Season 3 didn’t help). Then all of a sudden, Angel’s son Connor (Vincent Kartheiser) got snuggly with Cordy and . . . uggggh.
1 OPPORTUNITY WE WISH THEY HAD MISSED
The whole Connor-Cordelia affair: Anytime a grown woman takes up with the son of her best friend (and almost-boyfriend), well, that’s a whole lotta uggggh. We realize it was the only way to incorporate Charisma Carpenter’s pregnancy into the plot (actually, we could think of other story lines that would have done the trick), but still. Did we mention uggggh?
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