TV Flashback – Angel

Aired: 1999-2004

Number of Seasons: 5

Created by: Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt

Starring: David Boreanaz, Chrisma Carpenter, Alexis Denisof, J August Richards, Andy Hallett, Amy Acker, Stephanie Romanov, Christian Kane, Vincent Kartheiser, Julie Benz, Mercedes McNab, James Marsters & Glenn Quinn

Angel was a somewhat popular show on the CW network (WB at the time) when it aired in 99 and went on till 04 in which it went out on a high, swinging much to the annoyance of fans who fought for the show to stay on the small screen for another season at least. Still going on in comic form, I’ll look back on the TV show and have added what the best characters and episodes were aswell as look at where the cast are now.

As it is a a spin-off as Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel picks up just after the events of the Season 3 finale of Buffy where Angel leaves Sunnydale and moves to Los Angeles to help the helpess and continue brooding over the torment he has caused in his Angelus days before a gypsy gave him back his soul. After saving a woman from a few vampires (including a well before his LOST days Josh Holloway) in an alley, he has first encounter with Allen Doyle (Glenn Quinn), half man/half demon, sent to Angel from The Powers That Be to help him in his quest to help the helpess as PTB send Doyle vivid visions of the person/people that Angel has to help. Whilst on a mission to help a woman from one of Doyle’s visions, Angel manages to run into Cordelia Chase and from pretty much there on Season 1 is spent becoming very standalone heavy whilst Wolfram & Hart looks down on Angel Investigations in the background from afar, featuring two lawyers (Lindsay and Lilah) and the main head of the LA branch (Holland Manners).

The first half of the season add a few guest spots for those from the Buffyverse in Spike, Oz, even Buffy herself and Wesley. Wesley though comes into Angel full-time to replace Doyle, who heroically sacrifices himself for the greater good in the ‘Hero’ episode. With much of the Doyle/Cordy scenes in the episodes leading up to that was Doyle doing his best to ask her out whilst building up the courage to tell her he’s half demon, no sooner does she find out and jokes would he ask her out already, he saves a group of demons from these pure-blood nazi-like demons from a devastating beacon and embraces with Cordy, thus passing on his visions onto her, giving Cordy more character and growth throughout the shows run. Gunn comes into play towards the end of Season 1 but doesn’t join the gang yet until a few episodes into Season 2. Finally in the finale Angel gets an arc and an end game with the Shanshu Prophecy – if he fulfills his duties in saving people and stopping the apocalypse, the vampire with the soul will become human. Not only that but Wolfram & Hart decide to bring an old face back from the dead to deal with Angel, in the shape of Darla.

Season 2 goes darker with our main hero in particular embracing it as he does his best to help Darla as he realises she has returned human and is dying. Lorne comes into play with his karaoke bar Caritas. Lorne’s speciality is that he can read people’s aura when they are singing. When a familiar face (Drusilla) returns and turns Darla into a vampire is when the show takes a dark turn. In Holland Manners home, with Lindsay, Lilah and many other people from Wolfram & Hart, Dru and Darla are there ready to kill them all, Angel makes a controversial decision and a moment of emptiness from Angel leads to him sleeping with Darla which leads to the game changer in Season 3 – Darla comes back on the scene at Angel Investigations pregnant. Make matters worse for the gang, the big bad that comes into play is vampire hunter Daniel Holtz, eager for vengeance against Angel and Darla for the murder of his family, thanks to a little help from time travelling demon called Sahjhan. As he notices that Darla gives birth to a child, Holtz decides to take a different plan of vengeance and take Angel’s son, Connor, to a hell dimension, raise him as his own and poison his mind for many years on one thing – that Angel is basically the devil. Though Holtz doesn’t get Connor without help from someone inside of Angel Investigations with Wesley having the most interesting arc that season that leads him down a path of darkness, loneliness and badassness.

Season 4 is loved or hated, take your pick on that one, but you cannot deny the ambition that it has to carry an arc throughout the season for about sixteen episodes and use plenty of episodes in season 3 to use to back up it’s mythology and one of the best fight scenes in the show in ‘Apocalypse Nowish’. As  Connor gets more lost as the season goes on, Angel Investigations have to deal with The Beast and the work that he’s working for a higher power, which ends up being Evil Cordy. The reveal was a surprise at first but the fact is in every poll at the time and even now, you will get Connor and Evil Cordy as the two worst characters in the shows run. Especially as they sleep together in Season 4, that didn’t help matters. Though it was all part of the bigger arc as Evil Cordy gives birth to Jasmine, a former PTB that hijacked Cordy’s body as she ascended and has arrived on Earth to bring world peace, by eating thousands of people. When Angel eventually brings an end to Jasmine’s plan and Connor kills her, a pretty good looking for being Lilah returns to gives the gang an offer – to takeover the new Wolfram & Hart that The Beast destroyed. Which of course Angel does but at a price – to erase Connor’s memory and give him a new life and aswell as the gangs memory of Connor.

Season 5 enters with the gang coming to terms with their roles in the new look Wolfram & Hart aswell as have familiar faces in Harmony as Angel’s secretary and bringing Spike into the cast fresh from his fiery sacrifice in the Buffy series finale. The show goes back to the old standalone format due to a smaller budget in comparison to the last few seasons and when it starts to get into it’s swing from the 100th episode onwards through to the finale of Not Fade Away it goes out in a blaze of glory rather than go out with a whimper.

Personally I was more of a fan of Angel than Buffy due to it being alot darker, had a more legion bad guy that stood tall throughout the series run in Wolfram & Hart/Senior Partners aswell as it’s various key villains in Holtz and Jasmine having somewhat justifiable causes for their vendettas/quests. Also a factor was the direct consequences of each of our heroes actions, the fact that each action had a consequence and we got to see the full brunt of that causing either serious character changes and key deaths. Still to this day I could easily watch the show over again from scratch all the way through in a few weeks and still even enjoy episodes that weren’t that well liked in the first place.

Other Recurring Characters

Detective Kate Lockley

Kate Lockley was played by Elisabeth Röhm in the first 2 seasons. Kate Lockley is a police detective that meets Angel in the first season’s second episode, Kate acts as a contact with the police. There are initial hints of a romance between the two, but those disappear when Kate learns of Angel’s status as a vampire. Soon, she becomes obsessed with the occult, falling into a negative spiral only enhanced by her distrust of Angel and the death of her father, the man who had single-handedly raised her and was also a retired but respected police officer. Her obsessions grow to become a general hatred for vampires, including Angel, and the law-firm of Wolfram & Hart. Angel, similarly obsessed with the firm, ignores Kate, and thereby almost arrives too late when she attempts suicide. Able to save her, the two reconcile, but Kate decides to leave Los Angeles, she’s already been fired from the L.A.P.D., and does not reappear again. Before she leaves, she strengthens Angel’s faith in the higher powers by mentioning that he was able to enter her apartment even though she never invited him in, leaving the audience to speculate whether or not Angel truly arrived in time to save her. Kate gave the show another dimension in the earlier seasons and it was such a shame we weren’t given more of the character since that moment Angel entered the apartment to save her.

Anne Steele

Anne Steele (also known as “Sister Sunshine”, “Chanterelle” and “Lily”) is a recurring character crossed over from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, portrayed by Julia Lee. Initially known as “Chanterelle”, she first appeared in the Buffyseason two episode “Lie to Me” as a member of the Sunset Club, a naïve cult that worships vampires. Chanterelle discovers the true nature of vampires when the club is raided by Spike’s bloodthirsty gang, and her life is saved by Buffy Summers. The character reappears in the third season episode “Anne”, now named “Lily” and in love with a boy called Rickie. Buffy is working as a waitress at a diner under her middle name, “Anne”, after running away to Los Angeles. Lily explains to Buffy she always changes her identity and persona as she moves from place to place. When Rickie is killed by a group of demons, Buffy and Lily are taken to a hell dimension where humans are worked as slaves. Lily helps Buffy defeat the demons, and afterwards Buffy decides to go home, leaving her job, apartment, and identity as “Anne” to Lily.

When Anne appears in the second season of Angel, she is an administrator at a shelter for homeless teenagers called the East Hills Teen Center. In the episode “Blood Money”, when the corrupt law firm Wolfram & Hart presents itself as a benefactor to the shelter, Angel convinces Anne to expose their plans to pocket a majority of the money raised on behalf of the shelter. Later in the season, Anne helps Gunn, Wesley and Cordelia find sanctuary in her shelter from undead police officers. Anne’s last onscreen appearance is in the final episode of Angel, “Not Fade Away”. During what Gunn assumes will be his last day alive, he chooses to assist Anne at the shelter. Gunn asks Anne what she would do if she knew it was all a lie; she asserts she would get the truck unpacked before the new stuff gets there (meaning she would continue doing all she could to help make what she could better in the world).

Gavin Park

Park was a corporate lawyer for Wolfram & Hart played by Daniel Dae Kim. First appearing in one episode in season two, he was present for parts of seasons three and four, and had a running competition with Lilah Morgan. Gavin filled the void Lindsey McDonald left by becoming Lilah’s company rival, although he tended to focus on attempting to hamper Angel via exclusively legal means- such as threatening to take the Hyperion Hotel from him by accusing him of lease violations- rather than the more mystical methods of attack used by Lindsey and Lilah. He and Lilah seemed to be both striving for the same promotion. After Lilah became “Head of Special Projects” (effectively becoming his boss), Gavin became more taciturn. Gavin’s greatest success was installing surveillance equipment in the Hyperion to spy on Team Angel, only for the devices to be discovered and rendered useless when Lorne- who possessed hearing sensitive enough to hear the hums generated by the devices- moved in. He was killed by The Beast in season four, but then re-animated as a zombie by Wolfram & Hart. The Zombie Gavin was killed by Gunn, who claimed he didn’t like seeing somebody he knew like that no matter how much he didn’t like Gavin.

The Groosalugg

Groo was played by Mark Lutz. The Groosalugg is a native of Pylea, a dimension where humans are treated as slaves and called cows. He is part demon and part human, but apparently more human since his only non-human physical characteristic is a pair of darkly colored eyes. Because of his human heritage, he was banished to the “Scum Pits of Ur” where he was to die, but instead defeated every creature that attacked him. This earned him a reputation for bravery and combat skill, and as such he wandered the countryside as an undefeated champion, or Groosalugg. In Pylea there is a prophecy that the Groosalugg will one day com-shuck, or mate, with the entity that has “the curse,” which in this case comes to mean Cordelia’s visions. At the end of season 2, Groo is installed as monarch of Pylea, the first to preside over the freedom of the human former slaves. Groo returns in Season 3 to rekindle his romance with Cordelia. She even goes as far as to find a mystical spell which allows her both to have sex with Groo and to retain her visions. Angel is jealous of Groo for many reasons, including that Cordelia has chosen Groo over him and that Groo is just as formidable a fighter as himself. For a time, Angel is concerned that Groo will replace him, due to him possessing equally dangerous combat skills while lacking most of Angel’s weaknesses, but Wesley assures Angel that he remains their reason and drive for fighting the good fight in the first place. When Cordelia and Groo return, they find that some terrible things have happened in their absence, such as Connor being stolen by Holtz and Wesley having betrayed the team in an attempt to protect Connor from a prophecy that seemed to foretell Angel killing his son. Cordelia immediately begins to pay more attention to Angel, and Groo starts to realize that Cordelia does not love him but rather Angel. In the last episode of season 3, Groo finally musters up the courage to tell Cordelia this, and he then leaves Los Angeles for parts unknown. I like Groo as a character and would’ve liked to have seen where his character went on the small screen if he returned.

Gwen Raiden

Gwen Raiden (portrayed by Alexa Davalos) is first introduced in season four’s “Ground State” as a mutant with the ability to funnel electricity. (Her name is likely a reference to Raiden, a thunder and lightning god in Japanese mythology.) Her backstory is shown to the audience before the primary action of the episode takes place. Born with these abilities, Gwen has little control over her abilities as a child, and in 1985, is taken to a boarding school. She accidentally kills one of her new classmates when a toy car he offers to share conducts her electrical charge into him.

In 2002, the 25-year-old Gwen is using her powers to facilitate her career as a successful, wealthy, professional thief. She meets Angel when she is hired to steal a valuable artifact called The Axis Of Pythia, which he needs in order to find Cordelia Chase on her higher plane. Finding the artifact, Gwen and Angel fight over its possession. During the course of the battle, Gwen tries to kill Angel with an electric shock. However since he’s already dead, her attack actually serves to make his dead heart beat again for a few seconds (this power had been illustrated earlier in the episode, where she restarts Gunn’s normal heartbeat after her own powers affected him). Caught in the moment, Angel gives Gwen a passionate kiss. After he regains his focus on Cordelia, the man who hired Gwen reveals he had trapped her and intended to kill her with poison gas. The vampiric Angel is unaffected by the gas, enabling him to rescue Gwen. In gratitude, Gwen allows Angel to use the artifact. Afterwards, he returns it to her, and she presumably sells it for a high price.

The second time Gwen appears (in “Long Day’s Journey”), she assists Angel in fighting against the machinations of The Beast and takes an interest in Gunn. During her last appearance, she asks Gunn to help her with a mission under the pretense of helping a kidnapped girl; in fact, she is trying to steal an experimental device which will allow her to touch others without killing them. Gunn agrees and ultimately helps her to steal the item. Gwen is grateful for Gunn helping her and the two have sex once the device is installed and seems to be functional.

Gwen has the ability to generate and manipulate electricity. This power can be used in several ways, from creating powerful and damaging electric blasts to manipulating and controlling electronic devices. The latter proves especially useful in her role as a high-tech, professional thief, a career at which she seems especially skilled and adept, making herself quite wealthy in the process. She can also use the electricity that she generates internally to augment her physical performance, allowing her to hold her own against Angel in hand-to-hand combat. Although her powers initially came with dangerous, uncontrollable elements, the inability to touch others and the tendency to attract lightning, these drawbacks appear to have been rectified after use of the device she appropriated in her final televised appearance.

Top 5 Characters

5. Gunn

Certain characters came along way from where they started off and one of them was Charles Gunn. Firstly arrived in the show as a gang leader of fellow-street kids fighting off vampires, he slowly gets over his hatred for all vampires and trust Angel and becomes an essential member of Angel Investigations. Some of the Gunn centric episodes were important to show how far the character had come, none more so than the Season 3 episode That Old Gang of Mine. Sure in the later seasons Gunn allows himself to get ‘chipped’ by W&H with the knowledge of laws (human and demon) to help Angel and Co in court  but I enjoyed the street wise leader more, with more heart and smarts that he was given credit for.

4. Holtz

Let’s be honest now. Holtz has pretty has had some shit to deal with with Angelus and Darla, specially spending his time hunting them down to then coming back home to find his wife dead and his daughter turned. You pretty much can’t blame Holtz looking for revenge right? I mean can you really, really hold a grudge against the man who can’t differentiate the difference between Angel and Angelus? Over two centuries of vengeance on his conscious can make any man not care. As villains go I thought he was a brilliant foil of Angel’s guilty past and one of the few that got the better of Angel in the end, even in killing himself to frame Angel for his own son Connor to hate him some more. One of the most complexed villains perhaps in the Whedonverse.

3. Cordelia

The heart and soul of Angel Investigations and another Buffy alum that grows into her own over the course of the shows run was Cordelia Chase. Fine, tackling the elephant in the room, Cordy was technically not herself in Season 4 and that’s the only thing I keep telling myself when binging through Angel marathon reruns (I’m not the only one that does this, right?). I mean once Cordelia literally carries the weight of the world on her shoulders with the ‘Gift of Sight’, some of the stronger episodes in Season 3 in particular are focused on her. I’m sure I’m not the only one that was disappointed in the way that such a central figure and important character was handled, even with her real-life pregnancy for the Season 4 arc and then the send off episode in Season 5. Such a shame for a terrific character and job by Charisma.

2. Angel/Angelus

Well technically he did carry the show for five seasons, so how could you not like him? Tortured by remorse because he has been given back his soul after decades of wreaking havoc and evil on the world, Angel tries to balance the cosmic scales even though he knows he never can. That doesn’t mean he’ll stop trying though, even with the prophecy suggesting that A vampire with a soul will become human if he atones for his past sins, he still has the feeling in the back of his mind that it’s all bullshit. Best thing about having the main lead trying to do good? That sometimes he will just break down when the going gets tough and just literally say ‘Fuck it’ (see ‘Reunion’ episode). Also helps that his proper evil ego Angelus gets a decent run throughout the series as well, even though his stint in Season 4 may have been a bit too long.

1. Wesley

Christ where do we begin? How could a character so….annoying from his stint in Season 3 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, brought into the Angel world halfway through Season 1 to replace Doyle and end up on a road to becoming the most complexed and borderlining barely between the grey and black area as one of the most captivating antiheroes in the Whedonverse? Well they managed it and I believed through the entire transformation of the character and Alexis got to thrive in a role that took him down several roles in one over the course of the five seasons. Also whenever it calls for two guns and some slow motion – Better Call Wes!

Top 5 Episodes

5. Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been (Season 2, Episode 2)

After running across it, Angel is vaguely familiar with an abandoned building, the Hyperion hotel. At his request, Wesley and Cordelia discover that Angel used to be a tenant in the hotel in the 1950s. At that time, Angel was pulled into a sticky situation with a woman hiding her past which lead to an unfortunate end. In the present day, Angel and the team attempt to rid the hotel of its demons.

Have You Now Or Have You Ever been was the first proper episodic flashback

4. Reunion (Season 2, Episode 10)

Angel is desperate to find Darla before she rises as a vampire. Unfortunately, Drusilla is working with Wolfram and Hart to make sure that Angel can’t stop Darla’s “rebirth.” The gang at Angel Inc. becomes more and more concerned about Angel’s growing darkness. Especially, when he makes a drastic and controversial decision regarding some Wolfram and Hart lawyers.

Not going to lie, this is primarily on the list solely for the last ten minutes of the show. Looks like Angel has just arrived to stop Darla and Dru from having their way with Holland, Lindsey, Lilah and a dozen Wolfram and hart lawyers, he simply just shuts the door and locks it, leaving Darla and Dru to have a feeding frenzy. Not only that but the episode ends with him firing the gang. What it led to was a different side of Angel we never seen before….until they decided they probably went too dark and a trip to Pylea was in order.

3. A Hole In The World (Season 5, Episode 15)

When an ancient sarcophagus arrives in the laboratory at Wolfram & Hart, Fred opens a small compartment and is infected by an ancient disease that slowly begins to kill her. As Angel and Spike travel across the world in order to help her, Wesley slowly begins to realize that there may be no stopping this disease.

When you finished watching this episode when it aired, deep in your gut, you had a feeling that Fred would make a return. In the TV world she never did (bar Ilyria’s turn of disguise). which makes she episode all the more heartbreaking. Superb performances from the cast all round, especially between Alexis and Amy in those scenes.

2. Lullaby (Season 3, Episode 9)

As Darla goes into labor, Team Angel tries to help her deliver the baby. Unfortunately, there are some unforeseen problems. Angel is captured by Holtz, who learns that Angel now has a soul. In the end, it’s up to Darla to bring Angel’s son into the world, no matter what the cost.

We entered the pivotal game changer episode of Season 3 and it didn’t disappoint with Darla sacrificing herself so that her son could live. Also we saw an end to Caritas as Holtz blows the shit out of it trying to take out Angel and Co. The ending is just beautiful with the piano score over it and haunting with the final words from Holtz of a darker turn to be expected in future episodes.

1. Smile Time (Season 5, Episode 14)

Angel and the gang set out to foil an evil puppet show that is sucking the brain power of all the children who watch. During their fight, Angel is turned into a puppet himself and must rely upon his friends in order to reverse the spell which holds him at one foot tall.

I mean seriously, with all the dark moments in the show, who would’ve thought that a comedic episode turn would be the show’s best? Puppet Angel beating the crap out of Spike! 


Where Are They Now?

David Boreanaz since Angel went on to another TV show to make himself more recognisable as just Angel, in the long running series Bones.

Alexis Denisof worked on another Whedon show in Dollhouse, aswell as a recurring role in How I Met Your Mother and more recently had a part in Marvel’s The Avengers film. You try and guess who he is. Also appeared alongside Amy Acker in Whedon’s film Much Ado About Nothing.

J August Richards went on to the underrated short lived show Conviction and also on Raising The Bar. Now currently on Agents of SHIELD.

Charisma Carpenter has been a busy woman especially on the small screen having roles in Veronica Mars, Greek and currently The Lying Game aswell as appearing on the big screen in The Expendables films.

Andy Hallett unfortunately passed away in 2009.

Amy Acker had a major role in Alias, aswell as Dollhouse, Happy Town and Person Of Interest. Also appears in the film Cabin In The Woods as well as Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing.

Stephanie Romanovs credits after Angel include The Final Cut, Tricks, Last Night and Slumber Party Slaughter.

Vincent Kartheiser had films roles in Alpha Dog and In Time but is mainly known now for his role in Mad Men.

James Marsters TV credits after Angel include Without A Trace, Torchwood, Caprica, Hawaii 5-O and Supernatural. His most known role though has been on Smallville as Brainiac.

Christian Kane‘s credits include Close To Home and Leverage which is still going strong.

Julie Benz most known role has been in Dexter since life after Angel. Others include No Ordinary Family, Desperate Housewives and A Gifted Man.

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