Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s spin-off show may not have received the same attention as Buffy itself, but that does not make it of any lesser importance.
The character of Angel originated as the love interest of Buffy Summers on the critically acclaimed Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Following his departure from Sunnydale at the conclusion of the third season, the vampire with a soul moves to Los Angeles and sets up the detective agency Angel Investigations.
With the help of fellow Buffy alumni Cordelia Chase and Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, in addition to a number of new characters, Angel uses his detective agency to help the helpless and try to atone for his past sins.
Whereas Buffy is a story of good triumphing over evil and the trials and tribulations of youth and young adulthood, Angel has a far darker tone and the concepts of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ are often blurred. This leads to the characters having to make difficult choices.
Being a Joss Whedon production, what makes Angel so excellent is the characters. Several Buffy characters were moved to Angel and given a chance to mature and develop in ways they never did before.
David Boreanaz is able to inject more of his own humour and charisma into the character of Angel. The darker nature of the show also allows him to explore the moral complexity of Angel and his quest for redemption far more thoroughly than he ever could. This results in a far more entertaining and compelling character than he ever was as Buffy’s brooding beau.
Cordelia Chase, formerly a preppy, sarcastic but hilarious cheerleader, becomes the heart of Angel Investigations. She acts as their moral compass and a reminder of the good in humanity.
Perhaps the greatest character development, however, is that of Wesley Wyndam-Pryce. After a short arc on Buffy as an inept watcher, he first appears on Angel as an equally incompetent rogue demon hunter. Over Angel’s five seasons, Wesley becomes courageous, cynical, and deadly while constantly maintaining the same dry humour and odd charm. His growth from awkward comedy relief to tragic hero is one of the most captivating character arcs on television.
A series of new characters are also introduced who fill the ranks of Angel Investigations, most notably Fred, who instantly becomes one of Whedon’s most likeable heroines. Her innocence and nervous energy are the perfect balance to the show’s melancholy.
During the final season of Angel, fan favourite Spike is brought on board. Spike and Angel’s complicated relationship and lengthy history makes for the perfect dynamic and their reluctant friendship makes for more entertaining television than either one’s relationship with Buffy ever did.
While Angel may not have made the same impact on pop culture that Buffy did, it is a very worthwhile watch. More morally complex than the Buffy, Angel’s strengths are its ability to delve into darker territory and the magnificent characters who made almost every episode captivating, funny, and tragic – often all at the same time.
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