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Feature: Angel

And it’s Goodbye from him

Angel - the end…

We bid a sad farewell to Angel as it reaches its final episode after five challenging seasons…

The format = there is no format.

Words once optimistically applied to Doctor Who, a show perhaps all too manifestly hidebound by format and indeed, formula. How much more apposite if those words had first been applied to Angel, a show which, to the consternation of some, made a virtue of near-formatlessness, which has been in a magnificent state of flux since its first season and whose intermittent water-treading instalments were generally its least successful. The show which has just come to a disappointingly premature halt after five seasons was recognisable as the same show which debuted after three years’ worth of parent programme Buffy The Vampire Slayer, but only just – two of the original three leads are long gone, and even Angel himself hasn’t always been around, as the occasional instalment saw Angelus rise to the surface…

And there can be no doubt that Angel has, perhaps by necessity, mutated much more than Buffy ever did. Buffy ended with four of the half-dozen leading players it had started out with still in place, and the destruction of the village in which it had predominantly been set served as a symbolic full stop to the series as a whole. Angel was first presented to viewers as, de facto, a semi-anthology series, in which three low-rent vigilantes struggled to make life better for the people of Los Angeles, doomed to fighting a losing battle by dint of taking on that task one person at a time. As time wore on, though, it became far more of a serial; the increased role given to ‘evil’ law firm Wolfram & Hart allowed us to develop more emotional relationships with those on both sides of what became an increasingly nebulous good-evil divide, to the extent that when a ‘story of the week’ threatened to intrude on the ongoing plot strands of our vampiric, demonic soap opera, it tended to feel as though that week’s writers were missing the point somewhat; that they were trying to write a show that no longer existed.

And those emotional attachments which viewers developed were rarely severed casually or without good reason. One reason for the show of 2004 being unrecognizable from that of 1999 is because of the regular influx of new recurring characters. Critics might complain that a preponderance of people brought across from Buffy might be a cheap way of bolstering the viewing figures by hanging on to the parent show’s coat-tails – and, for all I know, that may well have been the motivation for it – but such are ignoring the fact that few of these people were the same characters we knew and loved in that show, and allowing characters to believably develop, almost beyond recognition, is hardly indicative of cheap ratings-chasing.

Fittingly, where in Buffy they’d been children – yes, even Wesley – in Angel’s Los Angeles they were adults; in early Buffy Charisma Carpenter’s bitchiness was straight out of Heathers, but Cordelia Chase matured beautifully during her time on Angel to the extent that most of us actually wanted to see her and Angel falling in love with each other…

by David Darlington

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Image © Visual Imagination, Angel © Warner Bros
Feature © Visual Imagination 2004. Not for reproduction

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June 2004
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