"Just because we had a 'thing' for 150
"Just because we had a 'thing' for 150
As a popular TV fantasy action show, Angel doesn't just try for story arcs; it has a specific trajectory in mind. This second season offers well constructed character studies of humanity at its best, and worst, and features brisk comedy and aching tragedy in generous measures, exploring the amoral themes of betrayal, revenge, manipulation, cynicism and depravity - which are credibly offset by the timeless individual traits honesty, altruism, daring, romance and belief. While its coterie of writers and performers strive - anxiously - to avoid throwing viewers into chronic depression over nerve-jangling concerns for emotionally distressed vampire hero Angel (Boreanaz), this engrossing series has recently developed into classic feel-bad drama.
Driven by remorse for his dark and savage past, Angel lurks about town (it's all happening in LA, of course!), dressed in cool black gear, racing down the streets in a fashionable ragtop car, while fearlessly skirmishing with big monster trouble and sulking his way out of close personal loyalties. Yes, he's the slickest lurker on the block, resplendent in his leather coat - against backgrounds of urban gloom and corporate glamour, maintained by the show's excellent production values.
Despite the chills and horrors, there's a touch of The Monster Club's (1980) genre jumble chaos, and some zany Beetlejuice (1988) musical moments in this series. Most of the latter involve a demons' karaoke bar where the host, a green-skinned psychic - think actual 'lounge lizard' - named Lorne (Andy Hallet, a great singer and comedy actor), presides over murderously bad vocal performances by sundry nonhuman beings, in need of guidance regarding their destinies. Also, there is an upmarket change of venue for the main set, as 'Angel Investigations' moves to the lobby of a disused, haunted hotel. In Judgement, Angel finally wins his spurs as urban dark knight when he acts as champion for a condemned woman by fighting a joust to the death before an otherworldly tribunal. But... will Angel sing? Can he sing?
Are You Now, Or Have You Ever Been is a 1950s' flashback story of political paranoia, with a strange monster and one memorably dramatic scene (censored for British TV broadcast) in which Angel faces a lynch mob. Untouched begins as a promising tale about a telekinetic girl, but ends up just cribbing effects' action scenes from De Palma's The Fury (1976). In Guise Will Be Guise, Angel's English sidekick Wesley (Denisof) impersonates his boss for a bodyguard job. The Shroud Of Rahmon is a museum heist thriller - which sees Angel teamed with streetwise Gunn (Richards) to prevent an evil power from being unleashed. Throughout all this, Cordelia (Carpenter) keeps changing her hairdo, but makeovers fail to help her cope with the debilitating effects of her premonitory visions.
These and other subplots aside, the key narrative of the first half of this season centres on Darla (Julie Benz), the lissom blonde who 'sired' Angelus as a vampire. She returns from dust to haunt and taunt Angel in several of the better episodes here (checkout First Impressions, Dear Boy, The Trial, and Reunion), until their inevitably violent, yet sexually charged, confrontation in which the reborn Darla goes on a bloodthirsty rampage in LA - with Angel's vampire-offspring, Drusilla (Juliet Landau), in tow.
Redefinition marks the start of a new phase in Angel, as our hero turns away from doing good deeds, sacks all his staff (Cordy and Wes get stroppy!) and wigs out due to his former relationship with sexy Darla. Blood Money is about funding for a teen-runaways' shelter, while Happy Anniversary has a distinctly weird science affect as a young physicist threatens to end the world with his time experiments. The Thin Dead Line puts all the regular characters at risk from zombie policemen in a successful blending of Maniac Cop (1988) and Night Of The Living Dead (1968) - which also addresses the fascistic issues of Magnum Force (1973).
Reprise centres on developments at wicked law firm Wolfram and Hart, where a company review and a visitation from a 'senior partner' results in boardroom strife. This, and subsequent episodes Epiphany (Angel realises where he's been going wrong on his search for redemption), Disharmony (a vampire lifestyle cult cause major problems), Dead End - which borrows from Coma (1978), Oliver Stone's The Hand (1981), and Eric Red's Body Parts (1991); and Belonging (there's a monster on loose again), wind up several loose ends and set things up for Angel's return to his leading role. At last, he's back with his pals just in time for the three-episode closing sequence of Over The Rainbow, Through The Looking Glass, and There's No Place Like Plrtz Glrb, which details a fantastic rescue mission in the parallel dimension of Pylea.
The DVD box set comprises six discs, totalling 22 x 45-minute episodes with 15 chapter stops per story, handsomely packaged with a 14-page illustrated booklet. Disc One extras: commentary on Are You Now, Or Have You Ever Been by writer Tim Minear. Disc Two: script for Darla (but not in DVD-ROM form, so you can't print it out). Disc Three: two featurettes - The Makeup Of Angel (seven minutes) about prosthetic applications for various monsters, and The Sets Of Angel (15 minutes) which looks inside Angel's detective agency, plus a stills gallery and set blueprints. Disc Five: Disharmony script. Disc Six: commentary on Over The Rainbow by director Fred Keller, two featurettes - Action! The Stunts Of Angel (five minutes), and Season Two Overview (15 minutes) compiling interviews and clips. Plus: a trailer for Season One's DVD box set, and text-only cast biographies.