Category Archives: Angel

Angel – Outlasting Buffy

Season five of Angel is a bit of an oddity. Since Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s end (at least on TV) coincided with the end of Angel season 4, the show finds itself in the awkward place of trying to wrap up two shows at once. This is heightened by the appearance of Spike, arguably the most popular character of Buffy’s final seasons.

While most viewers seem to enjoy both shows, from reviews I’ve gathered that many Angel-only fans really resent Spike stealing the limelight. It doesn’t help that Spike is given more of the interesting character development in the early half of the season, while Angel just seems grumpy – all the time.

Though Angel captured my interest as a show far more quickly than Buffy did, for quite some time I’ve preferred Sunnydale to LA. So every allusion to BTVS on Angel brings a wave of sweet nostalgia. I only wish they could have incorporated more characters and storylines, or better yet, simply merged the two shows. As entertaining as Angel and Spike’s arguments over Buffy’s affections are, wouldn’t they have been more fun if Buffy was actually there? But since BTVS’s end seemed to be a mutual decision with the cast (especially Sarah Michelle Gellar) and crew wanting to end on a high note, I can see why more Sunnydale characters didn’t migrate to Los Angeles.

I didn’t realize how much I missed the whole Scooby gang until Andrew showed up in episode 11, “Damages.” I hadn’t been fond of Andrew’s character in BTVS, though by the end of the show his geeky ways had grown on me a bit. But as soon as he appeared on Angel I realized that I’d actually missed his character. And I loved that he shared what everyone from Sunnydale was up to. The best part was his weeping, hugging, Lord-of-the-Rings-quoting reaction to Spike being alive. That was really needed. Everyone on Angel either didn’t know Spike before he showed up or didn’t want him alive. Andrew managed to sum up all the feelings of the certain Scoobies who would have loved the news, plus all the fans’ joy at Spike’s return.

Episode 12, “You’re Welcome,” continues the walk down memory lane, this time focusing on the early days of Angel with Cordelia’s reappearance. Again, this was a character I hadn’t been fond of but had grown to like, and having her show up for one episode brought a warm feeling of homecoming.

The episode also addressed Connor’s removal from the memory of Wesley, Fred, Gunn, and Lorne, which had really been bugging me. In a way, it’s the opposite of Dawn’s appearance in Buffy season five. But while the addition of a side character didn’t change past events much in Buffy, the removal of a central character in Angel leaves way too many dangling plot threads. For example, why was Wesley with Lilah? If Connor hadn’t been there, Wesley would have stayed with Team Angel and never gotten all dark and broody. Episode 18, “Origin,” did clear up a bit of the confusion, but that aspect still bothers me.

I really would have hated “The Girl in Question” (episode 20) if I didn’t find out from the comic that it wasn’t even really Buffy in Rome and dating The Immortal. It seemed out of character for her (unless she was getting close to him for a mission). She’s already kind of in love with both Angel and Spike – throwing in an odd character who happens to be the nemesis of both would be way too melodramatic. But it just adds to the hilarity of the episode to find out the whole cover story was Andrew’s idea.

What I’d really like to know is when does Buffy discover Spike’s alive? I’d thought Andrew might have spilled the beans after “Damages,” but since Buffy’s not even in Rome with him it’s unlikely. Giles might have overheard Spike when he was on the phone with Angel in episode 15 – at least, at that point it didn’t seem like Spike or Angel was trying to keep the info secret. And in “The Girl in Question” there is no mention of the fact that Buffy doesn’t know yet, and if she didn’t, wouldn’t Spike still be dealing with the awkwardness of all of it? Maybe the comics have the answer – I’ve only read the first so far.

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Angel – Brooding Older Sibling

Even though I’ve unintentionally seen quite a few spoilers regarding the Buffyverse (and watching season one of Angel first didn’t help), I am still trying to watch both series “in order” as I progress. I’m following the Buffyfest episode order list, which has proved very helpful. I even watched season one of Angel again. (And in case you’re wondering, I highly recommend watching “Fool for Love” before “Darla,” to better get the full impact of Spike’s backstory.)

Near the end of the list, you can start watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel without having to worry about crossovers for a season and a half. When episodes ended on cliffhangers or with a bunch of unresolved questions, I tended to stick with that show for another episode or two. Or dozen.

The end result was that I was a full season ahead watching Buffy versus watching Angel. It surprised me. After all, I’d given up on Buffy after only two episodes the first time I tried watching, while for Angel I’d watched every episode I could at the time on Hulu.

Why did Buffy grip me when Angel didn’t? I’m not sure, but I have a few ideas. Yes, it was seasons 6 and 7 of Buffy versus seasons 3 and 4 of Angel, but I’d “known” the core characters (Angel and Cordelia) of Angel for the same amount of time as the core characters of Buffy.

Spike’s story arc was one aspect that pulled my interest toward Buffy. I never expected to like his character so much. I was a huge Buffy/Angel fan, so I expected to hate Spike. But his humor, British accent, and hopeless romanticism won me over.

Connected to that is the type of humor found in each of the shows. I laugh far more often watching Buffy than watching Angel. Angel isn’t a lighthearted spin-off show – it’s a brooding older brother to the more carefree younger sister that is Buffy.

Consider two similar episodes – “Tabula Rasa” on Buffy and “Spin the Bottle” on Angel. In both, the memories of most of main characters are wiped away for a good portion of the episode. “Tabula Rasa” is hilarious, with everyone screaming at the sight of vampires and Spike thinking he’s Giles’ son. While “Spin the Bottle” does have a few lighter moments, such as Fred thinking aliens caused the confusion, I didn’t laugh once.

Since I’m so far behind on Angel, I have to watch a bunch of episodes before I have the luxury of watching another Buffy episode. And the dark angst can get so overwhelming that I long for one of Buffy’s witty retorts, Xander’s jests during awkward or dangerous moments, or Spike’s cutting repartees.

In relation to Joss Whedon’s other works, I’d have to say that Buffy is more like Firefly with its blend of varied senses of humor, while Angel echoes the darker edge of Dollhouse.

Would Angel have been a lighter, more humor-filled show if Doyle had been able to stick around? I believe so. While I love Wesley’s character, most of his laughable moments were in his early incompetent days. Gunn is stoic. Angel broods a lot. Even Lorne, who seems to be put in as a “lighter” character, has a dismal outlook far too much of the time. Fred is more cute than funny, and Cordelia lost most of her ditzy ways early in the show.

I am looking forward to watching season five of Angel, and finding out how Spike’s addition to the cast will change things. Hopefully he’ll bring some of the humor from Buffy with him.

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