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AngelVampire with a soul takes last bite at evildoers
By Manuel Mendoza
Wednesday 19 May 2004, by Webmaster
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" spinoff that comes to a cleverly open-ended conclusion Wednesday night.
"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 says in a teleconference with TV critics, 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 300 years wreaking mayhem.
"If you’re inside a structure — be it corporate or societal that is by its nature corrupt — do you affect it or does it affect you?" Whedon asks. "It’s really about, ’Am I a decent person?’ And how hard that is sometimes, and how much you have to fight to maintain some kind of integrity in a world that is largely, almost entirely, corrupt."
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."
Before the survivors gather in a noir-lit rainstorm for maybe the last time, Angel tells Spike, Gunn, Illyria, Lorne and Wes to 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, "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 says. Still, he calls the "Angel" cancellation "a horrible blow." "I feel it was cut down in its prime."