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Feature: Angel

This Town Ain't Big Enough...

Spike and Angel

As Buffy ends, attention switches to its spin-off series, Angel. But how will the radical changes at the end of Season Four affect our heroes? And what about the new arrival?

Angel’s been a bit good recently. If, as is likely, you’re one of the people not watching it, then that’s something you really need to remedy. The final episode of Season Four, Home, was a fabulous end to what had been, quite simply, one of the best seasons of popular television in years. A six-month critical summation of the many strengths that this cleverly multifaceted series has at its disposal. Dramatic, funny and cynical, the episode and, indeed, the season, reminded us that Angel is a show about choices and hope – just as its parent show, Buffy, always was.

For a while, however, as Season Four careered towards its dramatic conclusion, it appeared as though this may have been our final glimpse of the activities of Angel Investigations. The perilous nature of US network television is such that even if a show is regarded critically, if the ratings aren’t up to scratch then the series ain’t gonna last. Following several months of speculation, however, the revamp proposed by the production team in Home paid off and the series was picked up in May by The WB for a fifth year. So, the future’s bright, as the crew’s skills combine to produce an underrated, under-appreciated, overlooked gem. Next year, if there’s any justice, Angel will finally get the wider recognition it deserves.

Season Five will be something of a homecoming for Joss Whedon, who is believed to be working close to full-time on Angel next year. However, the really big news surrounding next season came with the confirmation, in May, that James Marsters would be joining the regular cast, reprising his popular Buffy role as Spike, the (other) Vampire with a soul. ‘We think Spike could add something to the show,’ writer/producer Tim Minear noted. ‘He’s a great character and a great actor.’ Given Spike and Angel’s complex past – a touchy master/pupil relationship, tinged with mutual mistrusts, enlivened by both having, at one time or another, shared the bed of Buffy Summers – sparks are, somewhat inevitably, bound to fly. Rumours concerning what Spike is actually returning as – ghost, Human or Vampire – have done little to quell the anticipation of fans for a whole year of watching James Marsters and David Boreanaz acting together.

What we do know about Season Five is that the Angel Investigations team is now running the LA branch of Wolfram & Hart. In this regard, they will face their biggest challenge to date as they battle to maintain their integrity whilst being offered temptations of almost Biblical proportions. Whatever it was that happened to Gunn in The White Room in the final episode of last season will, no doubt, have a significant impact on his character’s development. Similarly, Wesley’s motivation in getting into Wolfram & Hart in the first place – to save the soul of his former lover, Lilah – has seemingly failed.

by Keith Topping

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