So a while back, over the course of a couple years, the wife and I whipped through all seven seasons, 144 episodes of "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" , which I regularly blogged about in progress reports. How on earth to follow all that vampire-staking action up? With the spin-off showcase "Angel," which ran from 1999-2004 featuring everyone's favorite antihero vampire-with-a-soul.
I was actually rather hesitant to dive into the whole five seasons of "Angel," because spin-off shows rarely reach the heights of their parent. And for about the first half of this series, "Angel" kind of felt like a show trying to figure out what it wants to be. After having left Sunnydale and a broken-hearted Buffy, Angel heads to Los Angeles and sets up shop as a kind of supernatural private detective -- basically, he's vampire Batman. Whiny "Buffy" castmate Cordelia comes aboard as his secretary/damsel in distress, and a mysterious wisecracking guy named Doyle joins the show as they amble about various supernatural adventures.
While entertaining, the early episodes kind of fall into a rut and too often the show doesn't really seem sure where it's going. The gothic rock'n'roll video slash-cut editing style sometimes gets annoying, too. I also have one pet peeve -- wayyyyy too much of Angel strutting about in broad daylight, which spoils the whole vampire mystique thing. I don't care if he's not in direct sunlight, if he's in a brightly lit office, it just ain't... vampirey.
Soon, though, dreary Doyle is killed off (a good move, as the whole dark brooding guy with a secret role was already filled by Angel) and ex-Watcher Wesley (a very solid Alexis Denisof) joins the team. The show needed a "Giles" sort of character, the know-it-all geek with courage, and Wesley and Cordelia provide much-needed comic relief to the show's generally dark demon doings. I also enjoyed the cynical policewoman character Kate, although she starts to move into the background after a couple of appearances. By the end of season one and a few really entertaining episodes featuring the demonic law firm Wolfram and Hart, "Angel" seems a much more focused show than it started off as.
Best episode: Is it a bit of a cheat that my favorite episodes of this series featured guest appearances by "Buffy" characters? Well, either way, episode 8, "I Will Remember You," is a great piece of romantic melodrama when Angel is "cured" of his vampirism, Buffy shows up for a little romantic tango, and in the end Angel has to make a rather tragic decision. The Buffy/Angel thing has been run into the ground, but this episode still packs a nice sting. Honorable mention: the two-parter featuring another "Buffy" character, Eliza Dushku's rogue slayer Faith.