Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Watch This! Angel (Pt. 1)

Welcome to Part One of a three part post series on Angel. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a show that was unique at the time and became iconic, to the point that many shows and movies have since tried to capture it's particular brand of appeal, with varying degrees of success. It seems natural that such a larger than life show would deserve a spin-off. Angel was a natural character choice for a spin-off series. His history and mythology are deep enough to be expanded upon over the course of many seasons. It's still surprising to me that the series only went on for five seasons, when it rightfully could have gone on much longer, as evidenced by it's continuation in comic form. But let's just work with the show we have, for now. This initial post will focus on the main cast of characters, with heavy bias on the ones I find the most interesting.

Angel, Out of Sunnydale

Angel himself is far more interesting in his own series than he is in Buffy. One of the problems with his existence in Buffy is the fact that he is supposed to be centuries old. Buffy, throughout his entire tenure as a main cast member, is a high school student. However wise, worldly, and jaded Angel is supposed to be, however tortured he is, we don't get to fully appreciate it because he's  in the role of high school boyfriend. And that, my friends, has an undeniable ick factor to it. Whether or not you like Buffy and Angel together, whether or not you think they're soul mates, you have to see the truth that as long as Buffy is not grown up, Angel cannot act his age. The writers have to temper his maturity so that it doesn't come across as ridiculously skivvy.

Once Angel gets to LA and starts his mission for redemption, all of the sudden you start to feel his age. He is written as a tortured, reluctant super hero. Suddenly his backstory as a vampire with a soul seems darker, and it fits with the darker tone of the entire show. We see, for example, that he isn't mindlessly good all of the time. He makes questionable choices and get's caught up in the need for revenge. In season two, he becomes so focused on taking out the bad guys of Wolfram and Hart that he completely severs himself from his friends. His mistakes are what make him engaging.

Cordelia, All Grown Up

Cordelia is our second transplanted Buffy character. She was originally a shallow, privileged, mean
spirited foil for Buffy. Gradually, however, she was given more depth. She's shown to be smarter than she let's on, and more complex than the typical cheerleader character is usually allowed to be. She dates the comically unpopular Xander, hangs out with the Scooby Gang, and survives some of the bigger battles of Sunnydale. So while you might initially think that she seems like a rather random choice for a main character in the spin-off series, it actually makes some sense. She's already well established, and at least redeemable if not likable.

One of the things I  appreciated about Cordelia's development is that she kind of continues to be a little vain and a little shallow, despite learning empathy and the need for a higher purpose. She's given the gift of visions of people who need Angel's help. The visions are painful and rob Cordelia of the possibility of a completely normal life, time and time again. As a result, she becomes less of a socialite and more of a fighter, though she has much fewer opportunities to kick ass than the boys do.

In terms of how well she functions as a romantic interest for Angel...well, that never rang true for me. While I'm not the biggest fan of the Buffy/Angel pairing, I never felt like Angel's chemistry with anyone else was really complete.


In Buffy, Wesley was best described as Not Giles. He's there to try to replace Giles when the council determines that Giles sucks at his job. He comes across as irritating and even a bit comedic, and his character continues in this fashion throughout his initial appearances in Angel. His character development takes a series of turns, however, beginning with the episode in which he's captured and tortured by Faith. From this point on, he becomes steadily darker and more complex, making some morally questionable decisions, but always trying to fight on the side of good. Like Cordelia, I initially disliked his character, and like Cordelia I felt he remained flawed throughout the series. However, his character get's a better treatment in terms of both romance and send off. I really liked him with Fred, is what I'm saying.


The first non-transplant character in Angel is also the most manufactured of the main characters. I urban character, a tough guy who has lived on the streets, maybe even been in a gang of sorts, but is still on the right side of the good/evil line." And out of that mold springs Gunn, with his tough sounding name and his tough attitude and his tough toughness. Still, it's hard to dislike the guy, who frequently serves as the team's muscle despite a lack of formal training or super powers of any kind.
can almost hear the writers cooking this guy up. "Okay, we have this urban fantasy set in Los Angeles. We need a really

Angel has a lot of other recurring characters who, depending on what season you focus on are part of the main cast. It would be impossible to fairly cover all of them. In terms of which recurring characters I liked the most...

Darla seems like a natural addition to the cast, since she's Angel's maker and a huge source of conflicted emotions for him. During one of the shows more interesting arcs, she brought back to life as a human with a soul, and she struggles with how to deal with that. Later she's given the Mystic Pregnancy treatment, and her character basically becomes a plot device. I'm mostly okay with the way the writer's handled this, however. I like that, while she's mostly a villain, we do get a sense that she has a good side, a part of her does actually love Angel, and she is capable so sacrifice.

I also really like Lindsey, both as an antagonist and reluctant ally. He's a cynical, jaded character with a murky sense of morality--basically he's the clich├ęd lawyer from all shows and movies. During his time at Wolfram and Hart, you kind of get the sense that he's in over his head, that he doesn't want to become entirely evil. Yet he's not above some underhandedness, and he does stay with them despite a chance to jump ships. He's the kind of character that I really enjoy, because you can see his motivations, but you're never sure how evil he actually is. And, in fact, he's probably mostly just selfish.

That's the run down of Angel's most interesting characters, or at least as much as I'm able to do in a reasonably sized post. In Part 2, I'll be discussing the world building and How Things Work in the Angel/Buffy universe. The final part of the posting series will of course be a top ten episodes list, and then we'll be moving on to other things. Stay tuned.

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