This is going to be the first of a series of posts I’m going to do, ranking my favourite episodes of my favourite TV shows, like I did with Star trek about 18 months ago. As it’s Christmas (or it was when I started this post), I decided to start with Angel.
Angel ran for 5 seasons between 1999 and 2004. It’s hard to believe that it’s nearly 14 years since it finished. I must confess that I wasn’t sold on the idea of a spinoff show to Buffy the Vampire Slayer when I first heard about it. As it went through its five season run, however, it delivered some excellent storylines, cracking dialogue, high drama and one of the best character arcs I think I’ve ever seen in the form of Mr Wesley Wyndom-Price, played so brilliantly by (I can’t believe he’s not British) Alexis Denisof.
At times, I think it reached greater heights than Buffy, without managing the consistency. David Boreanaz makes a wonderful lead and he is backed up by a brilliant cast of supporting talent who are each given their own chances to shine. So, here are my favourite ten episodes from the five seasons of Angel. I’ve taken a few liberties and put a couple of pairs in there where I think one episode doesn’t work without another. For instance:
10. Five by Five / Sanctuary
Bringing Faith and Buffy into the series for these two episodes was a great way of checking in on the progress that the other previous Buffy characters had made since they left Sunnydale. I love the scenes between Faith and Wesley, who had always had a difficult relationship; one that comes to a brutal crossroads here.
Best line – Angel – “So don’t come down here with your great new life and expect me to do things your way. Go home.”
Seeing Angel get back on track is wonderful. There’s a lovely piece of closure with his character’s relationship with Detective Lockley too. He saves her from suicide and there is a great air-clearing that happens which is what they needed, made even more affecting by the fact that he enters her apartment without an invitation.
Best line – Gunn – “You enjoyin’ your visit to 1973. I meant her message pad.”
8. Are You Now or Have You Ever Been
Some of the flashback episodes leave me a bit cold but this one, written by Tim Minear, is excellently done. It’s also one of David Boreanaz and Alexis Denisof’s favourites from the series. The setting of the hotel is brilliant and has a life of its own but the real treat here is the supporting cast, especially Melissa Marsala as Judy.
Best line – Thesulac Demon – “Especially that one!”
7. Waiting in the Wings
Written and Directed by Joss Whedon, this episode plays up the relationships between characters in the group really well. It also features Summer Glau’s acting debut and some wonderful sequences where characters take on others’ personalities, revealing their true feelings. It’s also heart-breaking to watch Wesley build himself up only to see his love fall for someone else.
Best line – Gunn – “What are you, her brother?
Wesley – “Apparently.”
6. Reunion / Redefinition
It’s great to see Wolfram and Hart’s machinations come back to bite them. I loved Sam Anderson as Holland Manners and he does a wonderful job of showing the character’s realisation that he’s bitten off more than he can chew. Angel shows up and they think he’s going to save them but then, throwing Manners’ own words back at him, he locks them all in to die. It’s a great double episode.
Best line – Angel – “And yet, somehow I just can’t seem to care.”
5. Not Fade Away
The Butch and Sundance final scene is very memorable but there are so many other standout parts of this final instalment. These include the tender send off for Wesley when he allows Illyria to appear to him as Fred in his dying moments (sorry, there’s something in my eye), Angel’s great fight with Hamilton (Adam Baldwin), Lindsay dispatched by the melancholy Lorne as one final favour and there’s even a nice check-in with Connor. Ends on a high note.
Best line – Spike “Can I deny you three times?”
4. Sleep Tight
The tragedy of someone who thinks that they’re doing the right thing. Poor Wesley. Despite the fact that I’m sure things would have gone so much better if he’d just spoken to Angel about what he was thinking all along instead of going behind his back, I still feel for him. Denisof plays the role brilliantly and really makes you understand the dilemma his character has. Then, at the end, seeing Angel lying helpless to save his son – that’s classic stuff and one of the absolute standout moments of season 3 if not the whole show.
Best line – Lilah – “It’s all about making the rest of your eternal life miserable.”
3. A Hole In the World
Ah, the emotional gut punch that is seeing Wesley and Fred finally together only to have them torn apart by Fred’s possession by the demon, Illyria. The increasingly futile and desperate attempts of the group to save her from this awful fate are brilliantly done. There’s also a great cameo from Alec Newman and some lovely dialogue. Spike and Angel enjoy some of their best banter and there’s the heart-breaking scene at the end when Fred finally succumbs. One more thing is Gunn’s realisation that some of this is on him
Best line – Wesley – “Jennifer, please send anyone else who isn’t working Miss Burkle’s case to me.”
2. I Will Remember You
Pangs is a great episode of Buffy, and it leads neatly from one show to another as Buffy follows Angel back to LA to confront him about his interference. What follows is a lovely story about getting everything you want and then having to give it up because it’s the right thing to do. The element of tragedy is there at the end when you have that situation where you don’t know who’s worse off. I can even throw in a Chaucer reference here and say it reminds me of The Knight’s Tale. Angel gets to remember the one perfect day he had with his true love but he gets the pain of knowing that it can never happen again. Buffy gets the bliss of ignorance but also she never got to experience the happiness of being with him. Love it, and its beautifully done at the end when the seconds are ticking away. (something in my eye again!)
Best line – Cordelia – “You don’t wanna stir, but if my ex came to town and was all stalking me in the shadows and then left and he didn’t even say hello, I’d be…”
Buffy – “A little upset. Wouldn’t you?
1. Soulless / Calvary
Angel does Silence of the Lambs. Really, these two are part of a larger arc which is a really great piece of storytelling. David Boreanaz gets to spend some quality time exploring his character’s really dark side and he clearly relishes it, playing all his friends off against each other and picking on their flaws and insecurities. His scene with Fred and Gunn is especially nasty. In truth, the first half of this double episode is by far the stronger of the two. The reason I have included Calvary is because of Stephanie Romanov and the magic work she does as Lilah Morgan. She brings a massive amount of quality – I could even throw in the first half of the next episode, Salvage, if only for the beautifully shot scene between her and Wesley in the basement as he readies himself to chop off her head. Brilliant stuff and compelling. Lilah was a great character and it took someone of similar quality to replace her in the form of Spike in season 5, just as he replaced Cordelia as the sarcastic counterpoint in Buffy.
Best line – Cordelia – “Do you know what Angelus would do if we let him out?”
Lilah – “Kill you all in a bloody shower of violence. But hey, greater good.”
So, those are my top 10. If you disagree, and you probably do, let me know why in the comments. I love comments. In the meantime, thanks for reading. You can check out the Star Trek List here.