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Season 4 episodes listing...

Deep Down
Ground State
The House Always Wins
Slouching Towards Bethlehem
Spin The Bottle
Apocalypse, Nowish
Habeas Corpses
Long Day's Journey
Inside Out
Shiny Happy People
The Magic Bullet
Peace Out

David Boreanaz as Angel

Season One
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Season Three
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Angel: Season Four
cast: David Boreanaz, Charisma Carpenter, Alexis Denisof, J. August Richards, and Amy Acker

creators: Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt

922 minutes (15) 2002-3
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
20th Century Fox DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Christopher Geary
Following the startling cliffhanger, twist ending of Angel's third season, the new season opener Deep Down shows how the greatly distressed ex-Watcher, Wesley Wyndam-Pryce (Alexis Denisof), rescues Angel (David Boreanaz) from his prison in a watery grave. Ground State is notable for sexy guest star Alexa Davalos who plays Gwen, the 'electro-girl' thief. The House Always Wins sees the gang of three on a road trip to Las Vegas where they are reunited with favourite green-skinned demon and karaoke singer Lorne (Andy Hallett). At last, seer Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter, now looking a bit matronly) returns to Earth in Slouching Towards Bethlehem, and something of the dark prophecy (that she will eventually become a part of) disturbs Team Angel's resident psychic Lorne. This 'end-of-the-world' vision is largely fulfilled in Apocalypse, Nowish and then continued in Habeas Corpses, which has the threat of a savage and seemingly invincible demon Beast emerge from beneath the ground in the same back alley where Angel's wayward son Conner (Vincent Kartheiser) was 'born', and this big bad Beast embarks on a homicidal rampage, which results in defeat for Angel and the gang, earth tremors and meteor showers in Los Angeles, and the slaughter of everyone working at the offices of evil law firm Wolfram & Hart.
   Long Day's Journey adds further dangers to the already chaotic Los Angeles' streets, as Team Angel uncover the Beast's plan to plunge the city into permanent midnight by destroying all the totems of sun god Ra. In Awakening, Wesley and Conner recruit a powerful Asian mystic to help them with the rather tricky job of temporarily removing Angel's human soul (remember the gypsy curse?), in order to properly interrogate his former evil vampire self, Angelus. Although it's a static episode in terms of action, Soulless finds Gunn (J. August Richards) and Wes in a punch-up over Fred (Amy Acker, cuter than ever), when the devious and spiteful Angelus - dangerous to all, even when he's securely caged - turns the whole gang against one another with just a few barbed observations and revelatory truths. It's almost by accident that our stressed heroes discover the Beast answers to a more powerful master, in Calvary, but by then it's far too late and this episode sees the shocking departure of the only human survivor of the mass slaughter at Wolfram & Hart, scheming corporate whore Lilah (Stephanie Roamnov), while Angelus is out of his cell and on the loose in a dark city effectively ruled by the monsters.
   By now, the season's principal story-arc is well underway, and during the next three episodes Wes helps to free vampire slayer Faith (Eliza Dushku) from prison to effect the safe capture of Angelus, while Fred calls upon the magical services of witch Willow (Alyson Hannigan) to help find and restore Angel's lost soul. What's so noticeable and greatly entertaining about this sequence of events; apart from the welcome guest stars by veterans from sister show Buffy The Vampire Slayer, is the TV series makers' mischievously confident handling of quasi-supernatural and comic-book adventure themes, with a compelling blend of screwball comedy antics and intense human drama. The scenes focused upon drug addiction, brutal violence, and deeply emotional suffering, score impressively in the narrative's on-going exploration of such altogether problematic and serious issues as parental responsibility and 'child abuse'. Certainly, it's great fun to watch Faith taking command of a vampire hunt, and Willow's sunny disposition - after her spell in thrall to the ultimate evil - is certainly worth a chuckle, but when fallen hero Wes starts torturing prisoners for information, and the pregnant Cordy subtly drives a wedge of hatred between Angel and his son Connor, we realise that series' creator Joss Whedon and his gifted team of writers are once again making it clear their TV show intends breaking all genre clichés and defying every rule of conventional telefantasy simply by not aiming for the kiddie audience.
   With the Beast finally defeated, the next phase of an increasingly bizarre plot is revealed. The birth of messianic Jasmine (Gina Torres, from Cleopatra 2525, and Alias) perverts biblical Second Coming and Invasion Of The Body Snatchers' pod people scenarios, granting everyone's wishes for blissful peacetime that results in the statewide community of worshipful Shiny Happy People. Only brave heroine Fred is immune to Jasmine's overwhelming psychic influence and, in The Magic Bullet, she desperately takes up arms against her brainwashed friends, including Angel, but even when the gang are released from demonic enslavement, they are forced to hide in the sewers from possessed local citizenry, or perhaps take refuge in a weird hell dimension, where a truly nasty creature lurks.
   Season finale, Home, manages to resolve just about everything, satisfactorily (for the time being, at any rate!), but there are still more surprises in store for Team Angel when an evil dead woman is mysteriously resurrected to make them an offer they simply cannot refuse...
   The weakest point this season is undoubtedly the appearance of black actress Gina Torres as evil deity Jasmine. I don't think she carries the dramatic weight of her role very well at all. Lacking much in the way screen presence and subtlety of menace as a non-combatant supervillain, she's almost entirely unconvincing as either disarmingly charming messiah figure or malevolent puppeteer of humanity and, unfortunately, I felt the maggot-ridden rotting skull of her true (hidden) face had rather more life in it than her supposedly beguiling smile. Faults aside, there is ample evidence of character developments this season, as all the principals are moving either together or apart in various intriguing directions. The dynamics of the group are constantly changing, and though each of the characters enjoys time in the spotlight, the writers ensure that every 'off-duty' moment, solo adventure, or otherwise diversionary activity eventually impacts on the group in understated or obvious fashion. The show is called Angel, and it stars David Boreanaz, but this is definitely an ensemble cast.
   The DVD package (using the now-familiar design of protectively lined pockets in a handy binder and strong card slipcase) includes all 22 episodes of the season on six discs, all with Dolby digital 2.0 surround audio in English and French, plus subtitles in seven languages (including English for the hard of hearing). Except for featurette Angel And The Apocalypse (seven minutes) on disc two, the extras are mostly concentrated on the last disc, with Prophecies: season four overview (39 minutes), Unplugged: season four outtakes (three minutes), Last Looks: The Hyperion Hotel (five minutes) - a quick guided tour of the main sets, Fatal Beauty & The Beast (six minutes) - reminds us that evil comes in different forms, Malice In Wonderland: Wolfram & Hart (eight minutes) - spotlights Angel's metaphor about corporate villainy. Selected episodes have commentary tracks: The House Always Wins - writer David Fury with Andy Hallett; Spin The Bottle - Joss Whedon with Alexis Denisoff; Apocalypse, Nowish - director Vern Gillum and writer Steven S. DeKnight; Orpheus - director Terrence O'Hara and co-producer Jeffrey Bell; Inside Out - writer and director Steven DeKnight; The Magic Bullet - writer and director Jeffrey Bell; Home - writer and director Tim Minear. Disc three boasts a bumper collection of 11 trailers for the Angel and Buffy shows and their DVD boxset releases.

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