Category Archives: Season 1

Final Thoughts: Angel Season One

Given my general distaste for this season of Angel, my usual “What Worked / What Didn’t” format would end up being rather lopsided.  The wild sweeps in quality made for a few superb episodes while others were impossible to sit through.  Combined with an ongoing identity crisis and dearth of a season arc, this make Angel’s first outing one best enjoyed in small doses.  To that end, I’ve created a brief episode rundown to help those trying to tackle this beast on DVD. Continue reading

Okay, as tiny mistakes go, that’s not one!

My rejuvenating mask isn’t working

Angel’s first season finale begins the long a satisfying tradition of our hero losing each year.  Yes, he saves Cordelia and gets to end the season celebrating the news that he’ll become a real boy someday, but Wolfram & Hart got what they were really.  The attack on the Angel Investigations team was just part of the larger effort to resurrect Darla and not only did Angel fail to stop this, he’s not even aware that it happened.  This is more than just a tantalizing promise for season two, it’s a core element of the series.  Angel never gets to “win,” at least not definitively. Continue reading

That sense of certainty…

NOT this episode’s villain

“Blind Date” does for the villains what “Sanctuary” did for our hero.  The idea of an “evil law firm” certainly has its inherent appeal, but until now we never really had a real sense of their motivation or an understanding of just how insidious their brand of evil can be.  Wealth and power are pretty standard motivations for joining the dark side, but Wolfram & Hart is far more nuanced than that as it denies the existence of any light or dark side and frames any “moral” choice in terms of self-actualization.  Far more than being merely another foe for Angel to fight, this worldview stands in direct contrast to our hero’s conflict between his good and evil nature and make Wolfram & Hart the perfect foil. Continue reading

Are you familiar with Dungeons and Dragons?


I must admit, I did not particularly like Charles Gunn in the early days.  I’ll dive right into the racially charged discussion and say that it’s obvious that a room full of educated white guys and gals were trying to write dialogue for a black street tough.  As an educated white guy, I’ll admit to have no relevant experience with what Charles Gunn “should” sound like, but I can recognize a character that doesn’t gel.  The takeaway here is not to get some affirmative action in the writer’s room or some segregation on the screen; race shouldn’t be a consideration in the creative process.  What should be a consideration is what the writers are comfortable with.  It’s not necessary that dialogue be “realistic” (drama seldom is and the Whedon we love is wonderfully eclectic) but it is necessary that it sound natural.  Through no fault of J. August Richards’, Gunn just felt forced in the early days, more like a construct of what he “should” be than an actual character.  The world of Angel was already well established by this point, and Gunn wouldn’t really grow better until he became part of it rather than part of an ill-conceived “street.” Continue reading

It’s about saving souls!

Remember when I told you that you were everything to me…

While I’ll concede that “Five by Five” is probably the better half of this two-parter, “Sanctuary” is my personal favourite.  Yes, it lacks the fun and excitement of its predecessor and is significantly hampered by the return of the Council’s Three Stooges, but I think it’s the most important episode of season.  Where “Five by Five” saw our hero identify with the villain so much that he had to save rather than kill her, “Sanctuary” actually delves into what that means.  Redemption is a complicated idea in the Angel-verse, and this episode sets the template that will drive the series going forward. Continue reading

You can always tell when he’s happy. His scowl is slightly less.

This is the show that gave us Eternity?

For anyone who thinks I’ve been too hard on Angel’s first season, I’ll point to “Five by Five” as the sort of quality I expect from a Joss Whedon show.  No, not every episode can be great, but it shouldn’t have taken 18 for one of this kind of quality to arrive.  This is the sort of exciting, character-driven, emotionally relevant story the season needed way back in its first half.  Beyond the significant step up in the quality of writing, acting, and directing, this episode also marks the first time Wolfram & Hart have served as primary antagonists.  By every measure I can think of, “Five by Five” and “Sanctuary” mark the point where Angel found its voice.  Thank God we’re finally here. Continue reading

Evil Angel would never have worn those pants

That’ll keep you from flouting established canon

Did I call “She” the worst episode ever?  That judgment still stands, but “Eternity” does make a worthy run for the cup and leaves me yearning for the relative fun and coherence of “The Ring.”  There’s an awful lot to hate about this episode, but I’ll focus the outrage-inducing departure from established mythology.  Angel is good because he has a soul. He loses his soul when/if he experiences a moment of perfect happiness.  So, the euphoria of drug use qualifies as perfect happiness?  Okaaay, that’s a big stretch, but I’ll bite… except why does Angel regain his soul once the drugs wear off?  The curse is pretty specific about the whole “moment” thing, there’s nothing there about the soul returning when he gets cranky.  I’m pretty sure that’s backed up by the fact that Angelus didn’t spend season two is some sort of euphoric orgy. Continue reading

He thinks he can get out of this by pulling a Gandhi

Irish whip!

“The Ring” would’ve been a merely another bad episode of Angel had it arrived at another time, but just after the apparent game-changer of “The Prodigal,” it becomes almost unwatchable.  What’s frustrating me is how this seems to retreat from the right direction.  This show has a voice, it damn near found it in Angel’s struggles to save Trevor Lockley.  Having come so close to finally fitting everything into place, why is it now jerking us around with a story that is, at best, intensely silly and, at worst, lazily stupid? Continue reading

What we once were informs all that we have become

Love at first sight

I complained during the last trip into Angel’s past that the show doesn’t go to that well often enough.  Having now re-watched “The Prodigal,” I’ve changed my mind.  Not that this episode isn’t great, it’s among the best yet, but the rarity of these flashbacks helps accentuate their impact.  I think it’s no coincidence that both flashback episodes have been Kate-centric; as a new, peripheral, member of the Angel family, she hasn’t yet accepted his past and so it’s made doubly significant.  Unlike “Somnambulist,” that past isn’t a direct factor on the events of the present, but it is at the centre of Angel’s motivation. Continue reading

Do you want to know what the most frightening thing in the world is? Nothing.

The most painful thing ever done with a crucifix

“I’ve Got You Under My Skin” is the first time in a long time the visions have actually taken us someplace entertaining.  I’ve complained before about what an utterly lazy plot device they are, but I’d be more forgiving if the transparent excuse to do something new/unrelated/interesting each week was more often successful at doing something new/unrelated/interesting.  This episode succeeds by relating the random encounter (an exorcism this time) back to the characters.  Combine that with a surprisingly bleak conclusion and you’ve got the makings of a very solid episode. Continue reading