Saving Angel

Oct. 31, 2003, midnight | By Josh Gottlieb-Miller | 20 years, 7 months ago

So it turns out the lawyer really is a vampire. Angel's not just a one-note joke though but instead a deep action-adventure that features uncanny character development, tight fights and wicked plot twists.

A realistic fantasy that features human dialogue and natural interactions alongside monsters, Angel is usually memorable for its wit and energy. If you're looking for a dark and cynical but always exciting drama, then this should be right up your noir-ish alley. So far this year though, Angel has failed to meet its great promise.

The terminally brooding hero Angel (the likeably straight-faced David Boreanaz as the vampire with a soul) has come a long way from his humble origins as a PI fighting against the world's most vicious demons and the evil law firm that represents most of them, Wolfram and Hart. Squaring off against a world-peace-loving demigod last year (to save free will, of course), Angel's victory was masterfully twisted into an act of large-scale evil. As such, Wolfram and Hart's (unseen) demonic senior partners awarded Angel control over their operation.

While an intriguing change of direction, Angel is struggling to achieve balance this year. The usually dark humor and atmosphere have been stagnant and familiar, the season-openers' otherwise-light pacing strangely off-kilter. Working against the very evil that employs them has proven troublesome for Angel's team, who are growing apart from each other in their ambivalent interactions. In addition, Angel finds out he can only use Wolfram and Hart if he keeps the business running, or evil will pick up and move on.

Ambiguously, Angel seems to be doing a great job of keeping Wolfram and Hart running. So far, Angel's team has saved an evil client from jail time and sacrificed a traitor within their ranks to his evil cohorts. Angel alone has killed another evil client as well as a Wolfram and Hart covert ops team that was working against him, telling the lone surviving member that he had "seen the last [of mercy]." These dark turns might compromise Angel's moral edge with Wolfram and Hart subverting him rather than the intended reverse.

Angel remains strong due largely to its excellent cast, especially new addition James Marsters. Marster's Spike is a vampire ghost (with a soul, to Angel's jealous chagrin) ingeniously stuck at Wolfram and Hart, fresh from the apocalypse that ended Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel's sister show. Marster's comic turn promise to give interactions with familiar players some new spark.

Speaking of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel's other saving grace is that series creator Joss Whedon has brought his acclaimed writing staff over from Buffy to Angel. Hopefully, Angel's new direction, new talent and new writers will turn in another consistently suspenseful and funny season of television. Unfortunately, whether this remains to occur.

Angel airs on the WB at 9, Wednesday nights. Due to stylized violence and subject matter, Angel is for mature audiences.

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