Angel – End of an Era
It is finished…
In 2000, I began watching Angel as it aired on Malaysia’s TV2, also known as RTM2. I remember the promotion on Radio 4, now TraXX FM. The announcer called it “…the male version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer“. It was a simple time where vampires would burst into dust when a wooden stake goes through their heart. Or bursts up into flames when exposed to sunlight – instead of being the brand ambassador of Swarovski crystals & glitter.
Last night, I finally finished all five seasons. And, yes, am suffering the post-series depression.
Despite being a Buffy spin-off, I loved that the series stood on its own and developed with an amazing arc. As a screenwriting-dabbler, I am blown away by the genius behind it’s storyline and crossovers. Here, I’d like to reminisce also both Boston Legal & Boston Public.
The title character, Angel, is a vampire with a soul. Cursed by gypsies after feasting on one of their own. Before the curse, Angelus was a notorious killer who left devastation in his wake. His love interests include Darla – the vampire who sired him, and later, Buffy, Cordelia, and Nina the Werewolf.
Cordelia Chase, who joined Angel, and left Buffy‘s Sunnydale, meant to start her acting career after the fall of her own parents. The popular high school cheerleader was turned from superficial into a soulful character. It was her who started Angel Investigations, the shoestring operation for Angel’s fight against demons and evil. Her death in Season 5 (S05.12 – You’re Welcome) tied up loose ends and gave the season meaning once again. In Seasons 1-3, she was the source of visions and mediator between Angel and the Powers That Be. In Season 4, possessed by Jasmine, Cordelia’s character developed away from the funny, naive, and superficial cheerleader and into a manipulative person capable of murder.
Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, former Watcher, joined the characters midway in the first season. His predecessor was Doyle, who later died before Wesley’s arrival in an attempt to save Angel, Cordelia, and others. Doyle had the power of vision. A power transferred to Cordelia. Wesley started as a rogue and a klutz. But his death in Not Fade Away (S05.22) showed a stark contrast. His character, too, grew and developed in his own right.
Charles Gunn, rogue vampire killer turned corporate lawyer, started as a guest character in the first season. From the second season onward, he became a regular. Off the streets and always on the move, the trigger & stake friendly character added muscle to the original team.
Winifred “Fred” Burkle joined the team in the second season as a guest character. After being rescued from Pylea, home dimension of Lorn the Host, born Krevlornswath of the Deathwok Clan, she slowly readjusted to life in LA. Five years hunted as a runaway cow-slave, this brilliant mind also became Charles’ date before breaking up some time after killing her former professor. In Season 5, Fred and Wesley became an item. Sadly for both of them, Fred died and Illyria, an Old One, (S05.17-22) took over the body.
Connor – Angel and Darla’s son – was raised in Quor’Toth after being kidnapped by Daniel Holtz, Angel’s arch nemesis & a demon hunter who was resurrected by a, ironically, demon. Raised in a Hell dimension, Connor never had a family. His upbringing was mired by violence. By the end of Season 4, he lost it.
I can never do the characters justice in my short synopsis. I urge you to watch the series to really appreciate their individual growth and struggles.
Wikipedia and many other sites discusses the themes of Angel more in-depth. What I can write here are excerpts of those and my own observations.
- Adulthood and leaving home – Sunnydale has the high school and adolescent feel. Los Angeles, portrayed by Cordelia’s ambition, is where life is supposed to begin. You leave behind your naive and protected life to take a chance in something you believe in. Pursuing opportunities not available back home. In Angel’s case, it also suggests a new beginning. Moving on. Or, in legalese, departing from precedent. You can also see it as graduating from your last level.
- Idealism vs Realism – This debate continues on in many series. At the end of Season 4, the team at Angel Investigations were offered positions within their enemy-in-LA, Wolfram & Hart. Angel was offered the CEO’s hot seat. Fred invited to lead the Science Department. Gunn became the legal head, with some adjustments. Lorne was in charge of the firm’s entertainment division. And Wesley had access to Prophecies and Sacred Texts. They wanted to fight evil from within after failing over the last few years fighting on the outside. Season 5 shows the struggles between the members of Angel Investigations. “Am I doing what is right?”
- For Good or For Gain – The Shanshu prophecy speaks of a vampire with a soul that will play a pivotal role in the apocalypse. As a reward, that vampire will be made human once again. This prophecy was introduced towards the end of the first season. Angel was haunted by it in the second season to the point he dismissed Cordelia, Gunn and Wesley. It lingered over Angel, and Spike, in the 5th season. As in life, why do we do what we do? What really motivates us? A carrot? A stick? Or our own inherent nature? When we pursue any of the three, does it make us a bad human being? After over 200 years, I can understand Angel’s remorse and search for redemption.
- Creative mythology – We’re familiar with the usual vampires, werewolves, witches, and mystical beings. I love the way Angel writers create a whole new encyclopedia of beings, demons, and creatures with their own personality. I’d like to sneak into this point, I love the wordplay the writers employ for their title!
- Consequences in our actions – All acts and omissions, by negligence, choice, or ignorance, have consequences. Not one moment in the show where by a wave of a magic wand, “happily ever after” comes in. Even when Angel altered Connor’s memories, the pied piper has his fees. In trying to save Baby Connor from Angel, Wesley kidnapped the child. He, too, had to pay the price. For every action and omission, too, there is an opportunity cost. (Wha…? Now economics?!)
- Hope – In the series finale, on Wolfram & Hart, Angel did say that they will continue even long after their bodies have turn to dust: “always keep fighting the good fight, even if you may not win”. Sounds morbid. Yet hope resonates there. Death is certain for all of us. Resurrection or rebirth may not. And yet we continue with our lives and trying to make an impact in our fleeting moments here. Hope is what moves us towards tomorrow. Once we lost hope, it’s when we begin to functionally fall and fail.
- Acceptance – Another theme that stems from change is acceptance. Angel, Connor, Cordelia, Gunn, Fred, Lorne, and Doyle. Yes, even Darla, Spike, Lindsay, Lilah, and Harmony. All sought after acceptance. To be accepted as who they are and find love: eros, philia, ludus, agape, pragma, and philautia. In all its facets. To be accepted also means to be loved. By others. By ourselves. Connor wanted a family. Gunn wanted acceptance beyond muscle. Fred yearns the human touch. For a while, she was looking for purpose. Angel sought redemption.
“Let’s Go to Work.”
Yes, I love the series finale. The producers promised and ending, not a conclusion. But many of the loose ends were tied. It’s not those “happily ever after” ending. Some say it’s the beginning of the end. More importantly, the series ended with the same note which it started with.
The consistency went of tangent several times across the seasons. But that was tastefully done. At times, I do wonder what will happen next? The plot twists caused me to have marathons on several weekends. It wasted no back story from previous seasons.