Thursday, October 20, 2005

By special request: The Angel files

You know, I have to be honest and say that due to reasons of inaccessibility (Channel 4 screwing up; poor editing; no cable/digital TV) the first two seasons of Angel really passed me by. I sought out the Channel 4 showings at first - yes, I was there when they first butchered "City of Angel" - and although I knew it WAS a good show, I was just so hacked off by the obvious cuts and the incoherence it created that I just couldn't stick with it (also, they then started bumming it around the schedules to try and accommodate its darker tone: all that did was piss me off). I sat and cheered when "Right to Reply" - the TV feedback show - had a fan on to critique what was happening with the schedule, but I really just lost interest in chasing the still flawed screenings.

So it was only when "The West Wing" season 1 ended and Cloud and me jumped into having digital TV for a while that I really got into Angel. If you like, by virtue of us not being able to wait to find out about the Rosslyn shooting (remember that West Wing fans, back when Sorkin was around and the narrative really gripped? Happy days), I got the bonus package of picking up on Season 6 of Buffy and Season 3 of Angel. Cue Fred, Lorne, Darla and the pregnancy, the arrival of baby Connor and the transformation into grown-up Connor, falling out with Wesley (when did he get all dark and broody?) and the incarceration of Angel at the bottom of the ocean by Connor and the ascending of Cordy to the PTBs.

And then Season 4 arrived, alongside Season 7 of Buffy, and if it could be believed things got darker still. Cordy went all big bad, taking Connor along with her and bringing out Angelus to the bargain (actually, that shaman episode was one of the better ones of the season, whether or not you had been spoilered in advance about what wasreally going on). Willow came and strutted her witchy stuff to get Angel back, and Angel ultimately walked into a deus ex machina to try and put the series back on track.

[Long aside: I agree with what was said on TWP about the contrast in character development between Willow and Wesley.
Willow admits that Wesley seems gloomier. He sighs, "I've been -- I've changed. I've seen a darkness in myself... I'm not sure you could even begin to understand." Willow chirps, "I flayed a guy alive and tried to destroy the world." Well, that exchange certainly highlights the differences between Angel and Buffy. Here are two characters (or, technically, one character and one collection of quirky mannerisms) who had season-long descents last year, who made bad decisions for selfish reasons, and whose behavior had significant consequences for the other characters. But one of them has been dealing with the personal and interpersonal fallout of his decisions in virtually every episode for a year now. The other one occasionally makes jokes about that time she tortured and murdered someone. I mean, I hate Wesley, but at this point he is at least a developed character that resembles actual human beings. Willow is more like a Real Doll. In a number of ways. Fine, so Wesley mentions, "I had a woman chained in a closet..." but admits that he can't compete with the flaying, and Willow tries to comfort him, and see my previous rant. Wesley changes the subject because he clearly won't win the "who's a bigger sociopath" contest, and tellingly observes that Willow seems exactly the same as she was when he left Sunnydale. My point exactly. "Any major changes I'm not up on?" he asks, and Willow mugs, "Little things." Because she's gay now, you know. Like Cordelia wouldn't have shared that tidbit? Whatever. Then Willow asks what Fred's deal is, and Wesley gives her a confused look. We cut away before he digs out the DSM IV.
As much as I love Willow, I must admit that exchange really irked me.]

And then, although I made it as far the end of Season 7 of Buffy and the end of Season 4 of Angel, trouble struck. We went broke, and even the £10 a month the digital TV package cost us was on the dump-list. I went into a black hole of Angel-less-ness. And although I have avidly read the quotes on Vyra's website and the synopses on TWP, I still haven't seen Angel Season 5.

Didn't stop a tear coming to my eyes when I read about Fred/Illyria and Cordy in "You're Welcome".

Joe, I hope that clears up where I stand on Angel. Its not cos I don't love the show. I'll try and do better justice to my fav shows more often here.


Tom Hilton said...

A lot of Angel fans will differ, but I think Season 5 was amazing and you're in for a treat. Maybe a little less if you've been spoiled on a lot of it (as I was for the first three seasons of Buffy, because I started watching late), but still--I think they do some great things with the story. The final episode is among the best ever.

(Over here thanks to Shakespeare's Sister's link, and your comment on Repo Man--one of my favorite movies ever.)

Pete Ashton said...

I always found Willow in Angel kinda wrong - no continuity, no depth, just popping up, cracking a few jokes, doing some magic (isn't she supposed to be shit-scared of doing magic at this stage?), smiling all cute-like and buggering off back to angst-ville in Sunnydale.

Season 5 is kind of a retconned Angel with added Buffy. It has Spike in it. And Andrew guests a couple of times. It rocks!