“Let’s go to work.”
The last words spoken by Angel as he and his comrades face off against the Senior Partners in the back alley of the Hyperion Hotel; the cliffhanger of all cliffhangers to close out five seasons of Joss Whedon’s Angel, which debuted 20 years ago.
So who was Angel?
Angel was a vampire with a soul. His character starred in a spin-off to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, leaving Sunnydale and Buffy for Los Angeles because he knew their relationship had an expiration date. The show was supposed to be a darker alternative to Buffy, but it featured that Joss Whedon brand of humor that slips through no matter how dark the material is. Angel had such comedic moments like Angel singing karaoke badly, Angel dancing badly, and my personal favorite, Angel being transformed into a bloody puppet (Spike’s words, not mine).
By himself, Angel is just a brooding loner who’s trying to do right because his guilt over centuries of terrorizing Europe as a vampire compels him to. Of course, Angel comes with friends, albeit reluctantly at first. These friends end up doing a lot to bring out Angel’s dorky side. First, he has Doyle crashing his place, raiding his fridge, and telling him he’s sent by the Powers That Be to help him connect more with humanity, because he’s due for another slip up (Angel once accidentally drank the blood of a shooting victim when the temptation became too strong). Doyle’s part demon on his mother’s side, and he’s cursed with blinding visions that tell Angel who needs to be helped next. Also crossing over from Buffy the Vampire Slayer is former head cheerleader Cordelia Chase, who comes to LA to try and start an acting career, coincidentally running into Angel at a swanky Hollywood party. Her career is not going well, and she garners the attention of a vampire with high connections in the Hollywood scene, using his power to prey on young women like a vampire Harvey Weinstein. Angel of course comes to her rescue after he fails to save another woman who fell prey to the vampire. Cordelia invites herself into Angel’s office, and with Doyle, a team is born: Angel Investigations.
The team itself goes through many changes over the course of the show. In a shocking twist, Doyle sacrifices his life to save a group of demons and passes his powers onto Cordelia. To replace him, another Buffy alum in Wesley Wyndam-Price shows up. Wesley was the second Watcher to Buffy, and to put it nicely, an incompetent dork. But he becomes a perfect fit for the team, and along with Cordelia, has the best character development in the entire Buffyverse. By the end of the series, Wesley goes from dork to certified badass because of all the things he encountered. Another member of the team was Charles Gunn, a streetwise vampire hunter who falls in with Angel’s crew and leaves his crew behind. Rounding out the team is Fred, a female scientist the team finds trapped in a demon dimension at the end of the second season, which leads to a love triangle between her, Gunn, and Wesley.
As with all heroes, a hero is only as good as his villain. In the case of Angel, it was the law firm of Wolfram & Hart, which represented the worst of LA (and beyond). Multiple law firm members stood in Angel Investigations’ way of fighting the good fight, culminating in the final season, where Angel and company end up taking control of Wolfram & Hart, and try to change the firm from the inside. Even James Marsters’ Spike becomes a main character during this season to give the show some more comedic moments. Let’s just say things don’t go well for Angel and his crew during this season, but let’s not dive into too many spoilers for a twenty year old show.
Controversial statement time: I preferred Angel and Cordelia as a couple to Angel and Buffy. Their relationship felt more organic in the sense that they started off as friends, as opposed to Angel’s relationship with Buffy, which was “love at first sight”. Cordelia and Angel’s relationship grew and had many ups and downs, especially during Angel’s dark period during season two, and it’s a shame that the relationship never truly reached it’s pinnacle, because by the end of season three, I was screaming at my screen for them to get together, only to be denied by outside forces. They were my other Niles and Daphne, but they were tragic.
But why are you reading my thoughts? Wait, don’t answer that and forget I even asked it, just give the show a watch and you won’t regret it. You’ll see a lot of names on here before they broke out; Josh Halloway and Daniel Dae Kim from LOST are on here, one as a one-off vampire in the very first episode and the other as a Wolfram & Hart lawyer, Kal Penn makes an appearance as a villain, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. But most of all, you get a great show with very long character development that Joss Whedon is known for when he gets enough time to tell his stories. And for anyone local, David Boreanaz (Angel), is from the Philadelphia area (son of Dave Roberts!), so support your local artists.
Okay, he was born in New York, but we claim him now since he moved here at age 7!