The Vampire with a Soul first appeared in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and served as the forbidden love of the titular Vampire Slayer. As the series developed the character became too big for Buffy and in 1999 David Boreanaz’s Vampire with a Soul got his very own spin-off show called Angel.
After outgrowing Buffy and following on from the finale of Season 3 Angel has left Sunnydale behind because he knows that as long as he is around Buffy can never have a normal life or love someone who can make love to her.
In Season 1 a summer has passed since Angel helped to stop the Mayor’s ascension in Sunnydale and he is still adjusting to his new life in Los Angeles. Still looking for redemption Angel is alone and isolated but trying to do what he can to help. He dusts any vamps he can find and slays demons that cross his path. However, he knows that since Buffy forced him to feed on her to save his life he has been left with a craving for blood and sooner or later he will drink human blood again.
Then he meets a man named Doyle (Glenn Quinn), a half human-demon hybrid, that gets visions from the Powers That Be of people who need help, and the Powers have sent him to aid Angel. Whilst trying to help a woman Angel bumps into Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter), fresh from Sunnydale and looking to make her fortune in LA.
Together the three of them form Angel Investigations, and Help the Helpless. Unfortunately they have to contend with tragedy, new demons, old vampires and a law firm named Wolfram & Hart that is plugged into the evil that runs the world.
Season 2 sees Angel, Wesley (Alexis Denisof) and Cordelia are getting used to their demon fighting activities and after finding the prophecy at the end of Season 1 in which Angel learns that he may become human one day the three are working towards that goal. However, their casual approach to demon slaying takes a turn for the worse when Angel accidently kills a demon that was also working for The Powers That Be. Wracked by guilt (for a change) Angel realises that he and his people need to take each case as it comes, they are not keeping score and they need to fight the good fight.
Having had his apartment and office blown up in Season 1 Angel moves into a formally cursed hotel to give it a new lease of life and fill it with hope instead of evil. A guest star from Season 1 named Gunn (J. August Richards) comes to work for Angel, but things become complicated following Wolfram & Hart’s resurrection of Angel’s old flame Darla (Julie Benz) – not seen since he staked her in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode ‘Angel’ – as she sets about trying to turn Angel to the dark side.
Familiar faces return in this season and they are joined by a bunch of new ones. Angel’s twisted life with Darla both before and after he was re-ensouled is given a well deserved amount of screen time giving the audience a far greater insight into Angel’s past.
In Season 3 Angel has spent the summer at a monastery mourning Buffy’s death, but returns to Los Angeles to reunite with his friends. Cordelia, Wesley, and Gunn are all present but Fred (Amy Acker) who was rescued by Angel and Co from a Hell Dimension at the end of Season 2 spends the majority of her time in her room not coming out for fear of what might happen if she goes outside. Fortunately when Angel comes back, Fred does begin to come out of her shell (and her room) and accept what has happened to her so she can continue with her life as a member of the evil fighting good guys.
As soon as Angel gets back he is once again thrown back into trouble against the evil law firm Wolfram & Hart, and his day-to-day problems are escalated when Darla shows up in LA heavily pregnant with Angel’s child and an old enemy from both Angel and Darla’s past, Daniel Holtz (Keith Szarabajka) awakens in the twenty-first century to seek vengeance against the two vampires who murdered his family back in the day.
Relationships develop and are tested as Fred and Gunn move towards romance resulting in Wesley (who also likes Fred) being forced onto the sidelines, and Angel and Cordelia’s closeness in interrupted by the return of Darla and an old flame of Cordelia’s who shows up unexpectedly.
Season 4 kicks off with Angel still trapped at the bottom of the sea, Cordelia having ascended to another dimension, with Wesley alienated from the others, and finally Fred, Gunn and Conner running Angel Investigations. The main cast from the previous season return, David Boreanaz playing Angel, Charisma Carpenter as Cordelia, Alexis Denisof as Wesley, Amy Acker as Fred with J. August Richards as Gunn. Connor played by Vincent Kartheiser, also joins the main cast for this season with Andy Hallett also becoming a season regular.
Fred, Gunn and (apparently) Connor have spent the summer trying to determine what has happened to both Angel and Cordelia. Angel’s car was found abandoned along the cliffs and Cordelia’s was found on the highway, but there was no trace of either Angel or Cordelia. Fortunately Wesley is also on the case and despite his frosty relationship with the others and Angel, he manages to find the vampire and return him to the surface. Once back Angel kicks Connor out of the hotel and sets about finding Cordelia, only to discover where she is and decide to leave her alone.
The gang head to Las Vegas to see Lorne (Hallett) and discover he is need of rescuing. Back together again they return to LA only to find Cordelia back and suffering from amnesia. Whilst trying to return her memories they learn of something much darker looming on the horizon as events start to shape the end of days.
Angel Investigations struggles to keep the innocent people of the city safe as the formidable Beast emerges, blocks out the sun and goes after anything and everything in its way, including Angel and his friends plus Wolfram & Hart.
In their darkest moment the gang discover that only Angel’s twisted alter-ego Angelus may hold the key to stopping the Beast. They remove his soul and must contend with the coming darkness, the Beast and themselves without their Champion as Angelus seeks to break out of his confinement forever.
The darkest of the seasons, Season 5 is the final season of Angel and the only season to run after the end of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The majority of the cast return including David Boreanaz as Angel, Alexis Denisof as Wesley, Amy Acker as Fred, J. August Richards as Gunn, Andy Hallett as Lorne. However Charisma Carpenter bowed out during Season 4 and does not return, also the annoying one, Connor (played by Vincent Kartheiser) is absent. However James Marsters joins the cast as Spike (crossing over following his death is Buffy) and Mercedes McNab returns as Harmony Kendall, joining the cast as a permanent member for the last third of the season.
Angel Investigations is now running the LA branch of Wolfram & Hart, perhaps naively convinced that they can use the evil law firm to do good. Angel is the overall boss, Fred runs the science division, Wesley controls the research and development department, Lorne the entertainment division and Gunn has the full knowledge of the law downloaded into his brain in order to be the team’s legal expert.
The team have barely taken up the reigns when the amulet Angel gave to Buffy is delivered back to Angel and spawns the non-corporeal form of Spike, the only other vampire in the world who also has a soul. Regular vampire Harmony has also been hired by Wesley to be Angel’s secretary.
During the series Angel and his friends have to contend with the perils of running the evil law firm, trying to make something evil do good things, whilst facing threats from both within the firm and the outside world.
The presence of two vampires, both who have souls, also means that the Shanshu Prophecy has two immortals that meet the criteria to fulfil it. The rivalry between Angel and Spike plays a pivotal role in the series as the Angel team face more than their share of tragedy, death and threats to everything they hold dear.
Right now the summary is out of the way, was this a superior spin-off or on the same level as the show that spawned it…??
I did enjoy Buffy the Vampire Slayer and one of the reasons why was because the character of Angel/Angelus was played so well by David Boreanaz. The forbidden love story of himself and Buffy was the focus of the first three seasons of the show, however, it became inevitable that the two could not remain around one another without their feelings getting in the way, so instead of being written out and just disappearing Boreanaz was given his own spin-off which proved to be far more popular than Buffy.
The first series was the best in my opinion because it featured self-enclosed episodes that introduced a bunch of new characters some of which would reappear throughout the show and others who were seen once then never again. It was a shame that some of these characters were never seen again but as the series continued it very quickly set itself apart from its parent show Buffy. There were a few cross-over episodes between this show and Buffy with Angel returning to Sunnydale a couple of times and Buffy popping up in LA. This helped to cement the fact that the two are still very much in the same universe but are continuing to fight the good fight in their own ways.
The tortured Vampire with a Soul is also far more interesting than the winy Vampire Slayer, and Angel just oozes coolness. In the later seasons Angel’s entourage did grow as guest stars joined the main cast. Angelus also appears several times during the series’ run and is always welcome as he is a particular highlight, and I think is played with relish by Boreanaz. I mean who wouldn’t want to take a break from playing a brooding immortal to playing the worst of the worst??
After that first season the series became more episodical with each episode building towards the main theme of the season which became a seasonal story arc which came to an end in Season 4. Like Torchwood of the Whoniverse, Angel is able to deal with more adult themes and ideas because it is not bound by its young protagonist who is constantly going on about her sacred duty and not wanting to do it. Angel has accepted that no matter how much good he does he will never outweigh all the evil he has done, but ultimately fighting for the forces of good is the right thing to do, and that is reward enough.
It has its issues and one of the main ones being the character of Connor, Angel’s son. Now without giving too much away, Angel and Darla are able to have a child together, something that has never happened before. Naturally everyone wants to know what such a child will mean and all manner of nasty groups try to get hold of the child. Now in typical TV show fashion, the baby is rapidly accelerated into a teenager (again I won’t give away how) and is a complete twat. I mean seriously his parents are Angel and Darla, surely he should be effortlessly cool, but no, he is a dick. He basically has been brainwashed into hating his father, and spends most of his time getting on everyone’s nerves. As a teen who has the powers of a vampire, he should have been like Dante of Devil May Cry fame, Dredd from…well…Dredd or even Angel/Angelus from Angel but he is not. Everyone seems to bitch slap him and he is constantly whining. It is a testament to how good an actor Vincent Kartheiser is because I have seen him in other things and he wasn’t irritating at all. Admittedly his final appearance in the series does help to repair my opinion of him, but I think his appearance in the series should have ended with the episode where his parents bring him to Wolfram & Hart because they are worried that someone ran him down and he was completely unharmed.
Although it is a little old now and ended before its time Angel remains one of the best vampire shows that has ever been on television, it doesn’t rely on sex to keep and audience entertained, it does what a good show should do, it has great characters, good writing and a fantastic cast.
Unlike Buffy which ran on too long and should have ended after Buffy’s death at the end of Season 5, Angel deserved another season. It left me eagerly wanting more rather than getting tired of something that had its day. As a result whilst the overall Buffy experience left my Thumb indifferently Horizontal for Angel my Thumb is definitely Up.
8/10 – It is a real shame that this was cancelled before its time, but remains a great vampire show and came out before vampires glowing in sunlight was ever a thing and a vampire sleeping with a human was a rare occurrence not the norm.