2019 marks 20 years of Angel, the much loved spin-off series to the original Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
Angel, starring David Boreanaz as the titular vampire with a soul, was a rare spin-off that managed to match the quality of its parent series. The show ran for five seasons, a great achievement as far as spin-offs go.
While Buffy remains the more well-known of the two series, Angel is equally worthy of being remembered. Here are some of the most memorable elements of the show.
The quest for redemption
One of Angel’s overarching themes is a journey to redemption. The most memorable examples of this are Angel himself, and Faith Lehane, the ‘Dark Slayer’.
However, almost every major character in Angel is searching to redeem themselves in one way or another (Cordelia for her catty high school persona, Wesley for his many mistakes as Faith’s Watcher). However, in a much more realistic portrayal, it is shown that finding true redemption is not easy.
The quest for redemption is a theme that continues right up until the show’s final seconds.
Amazing character arcs
Apart from Angel himself, and Spike in the final season, only two other major characters make the permanent leap from Buffy over to Angel in the show’s early days. In the first episode, Angel rescues Cordelia Chase, who has moved to LA in the hopes of starting an acting career. Later in season one, the pair encounter Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, the former Watcher now trying to make a living as a rogue demon hunter.
Neither of these characters end the series as anything resembling the same person as when it began. Cordelia, carrying on a running joke of reminding Angel to collect payment from their rescued ‘clients’ early in the series, eventually becomes a true champion for the forces of good, at one point even elevated to a position as one of the Powers-that-be.
Wesley begins his tenure on the show with a very black-and-white worldview. After spending time with Angel, he learns to see in shades of grey. A lot more jaded, but ultimately a better man for his experiences.
Their journeys alone make Angel a series worth revisiting.
Complicated, likable villains
The ultimate ‘big bads’ of Angel are the demonic Senior Partners of law firm Wolfram & Hart. The Senior Partners are never seen, instead pulling strings from behind the scenes, working through their employees. The two most often seen through the series are Lindsey McDonald and Lilah Morgan.
Both characters are much more complicated than your average black-hat villain.
Lindsey at least has some form of moral code, with lines he will not cross, such as allowing a group of psychic children to be slaughtered. On this and a few other occasions he works with Angel against Wolfram & Hart. Unfortunately, Lindsey often struggles to resist the perks the company offers him to keep him.
Lilah, dubbed ‘Queen of the Grey Area’ by Cordelia, is much more loyal to Wolfram & Hart. However, she too shows her redeeming qualities, particularly after she finds herself unexpectedly falling for Wesley.
Ultimately, Lindsey and Lilah fly a little too close to the dark side, both meeting tragic ends. But when those times came, most fans were at least a little sad to see them go.
As mentioned earlier, the main premise of Angel is the central character’s quest for redemption. However, two major setting changes over the course of the series allow the show to reinvent itself while still keeping this premise intact.
Angel begins the series posing as a hole-in-the-wall private detective, keeping the more supernatural elements of his occupation on the down low. The ending of the first season sees Angel’s first office destroyed, and in season two, Angel Investigations moves its base of operations into the much larger Hyperion Hotel. From this point, the series truly kicks into high gear, and Angel can be more open with the truth of what he does.
Angel’s second reinvention comes in the show’s fifth and final season. Angel Investigations closes down, with Angel and his team taking jobs within Wolfram and Hart. They do this with a view to bringing down the baddies from the inside. The result is a season with a whole new feel, yet still the same Angel fans came to love.
Angel might never have reached quite the heights of popularity that Buffy enjoyed, but it is still a brilliant series in its own right. It is well worth a look for anyone looking for an older series to sink their teeth into.
Happy 20th anniversary, Angel!