Angel: Season Two (a spinoff from the wildly popular Buffy the Vampire Slayer) follows the continuing adventures of Angel (David Boreanz), the vampire who searches for redemption while battling otherworldly demons and spirits on behalf of man. Angel and his team of modern day Ghostbusters find ways to track down trouble before it gets out of control, giving each episode an action-packed and imaginative flair, with numerous long-term story arcs running throughout the season. The overall theme of the en…ire season seems to be the character’s journey from relative good to a dark, lonely, near-resignation to evil, all played aptly by the brooding Boreanz. I wish I could tell our readers more, but I have a severe handicap when it comes to capturing the essence of the series that has made it (and its progenitor) so popular.
The problem is that before receiving my copy for review, I had absolutely NO contact with anything even remotely related to this show. Not only had I avoided watching Angel, I never watched a single segment of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (though I did see the movie). This left me in a difficult position, as the show presumes prior knowledge of the backstory, and seems to rely on the viewer’s presumably previously forged emotional attachments. I don’t know if the previous season explains why Wesley, the staff nerd, is with Angel Investigations, but I am pretty sure that it wasn’t just to be the show’s dry witted foil to the bubbly, at times overly-Valley Cordelia. The way everyone reacts to the idea of Darla being around certainly points to some sort of encounter in Season One, but we only see her as part of Angel’s distant past here. I’m not sure what the conflict is in Angel, or why he wants to be human, because I have no idea who the character is to this point. I’m not asking the writers of shows like this to cater every year to the uninitiated, but for some reason, this show felt a lot more difficult to get into from the start of Season Two than something like NYPD Blue, or the inimitable (at least for the first six years) X Files. On its own, Angel: Season Two is a reasonably well written, very imaginative and occasionally thrilling product (though sometimes it takes the “kitsch” a little too far), but without Season One to build on, this one feels an awful lot like a big inside joke. Since I’ve never been a vampire lore enthusiast, Angel: Season Two just wasn’t my thing.
In a way, it reminded me of my high school algebra class: if you skip too many homework assignments, you fall behind. You haven’t learned the proper building blocks to move on to the next chapter, so you don’t bother doing any of the homework there, either. Soon enough, you’re so far behind, it hardly seems worth the effort to go back to the beginning and try to catch up. Perhaps if I had been with this show from the beginning, things would have been different, but judging by this season alone, I can’t say I’m searching for syndicated reruns. The show’s legions of fans will enjoy all twenty-two episodes on this six disc set, listed as follows:
- Are You Now or Have You Ever Been?
- First Impressions
- Dear Boy
- Guise Will Be Guise
- The Shroud of Rahmon
- Blood Money
- Happy Anniversary
- Reprise Part 1
- Epiphany Part 2
- Dead End
- Over the Rainbow Part 1
- Throught the Looking Glass Part 2
- There’s No Place Like Plrtz Glrb Part 3
As they’ve done on just about every one of their television products, Fox shows off their technical proficiency as a DVD production house on Angel: Season Two. It’s presented in 1.78:1 anamorphically enhanced widescreen (I’m not sure if this is OAR or cropped), and it meets every challenge the picture can offer. Remember, Angel is a vampire, which means he can only operate outdoors at night, and the fine detail in the shadows makes for an extremely sharp picture. Colors aren’t totally absent, of course, as interiors show a wide range of vibrant and consistent colors, with only minor artifacting issues to speak of. Menus are well animated and feature the show’s theme.
Even though it was born during the boom in home theater sales, Angel does not benefit from a true 5.1 surround, opting instead for the 2.0 surround format. Clarity is expectedly brilliant, but this isn’t the most prolific use of a DVD mix I’ve ever encountered (television shows rarely are, to be fair). The show does have a good amount of localization through the front stage, but with the pro-logic on, the rear channels seem dedicated to simply expanding the show’s music rather than creating any discrete effects. That’s pretty disappointing given this show’s vast audio-dynamic potential, especially with this many special effects. As audio tracks go, this is about as blue-collar as they come. The discs also include 2.0 Surrounds in French and in Spanish, as well as subtitles in Spanish and captions in English.
The big hitters here are a pair of commentary tracks by episode directors. The first is by Tim Minear, on the episode “Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been?”, the other by Fred Keller on “Over the Rainbow.” Both are pretty easy to listen to, as the commentators seem to have a genuine respect for Joss Whedon’s creation. The set also features four separate featurettes. The first, “Making Up the Monsters,” is a pretty self-explanatory six minutes, as it focuses on the extensive make-up each episode calls for. The second is “Inside the Agency,” which runs 16 minutes and goes over the whats, whys and wheres of Angel Investigations. The third is a five minute spotlight on the show’s “Stunts,” and the last is probably the most useful to the newcomer, a seventeen minute “Season Two Overview.” Here, the show’s principals reveal some tidbits about the backstory, as well as some relation as to where Season 2 is going compared to Season 1. Wrapping up the standard bonus material is the ever-popular stills gallery, but the extras don’t end here. Points for extras do, though.
One thing that disappoints about the Angel: Season Two supplements is its amount of ROM content. I lend very little weight to these types of bonuses, seeing as the vast majority of consumers will be viewing this on a set-top player rather than a computer. Still, it warrants mentioning that two scripts, for Darla and Disharmony, as well as blueprints are available for those who pop the discs into their PC’s. Though it’s far from an exemplary bonus package, it runs about even with hour-long TV show sets. There’s a lot of potential left unfulfilled here, but it’s respectable given that Fox is playing to a pretty captive market; it’s not like Angel fans would let the rating here influence a purchase.
At a list price of almost $60, the six-disc set Angel: Season Two is obviously not a blind buy. Fans of the show itself are certainly going to get a lot out of it, but outsiders should try to catch some reruns to see where they stand on this quirky niche show before considering throwing down money for it. Those who purchase it will not only enjoy all twenty two episodes from the second season, but also some fantastic technical specifications and decent extras, but unless you’re already a fan, rent it first.
Special Features List
- Two Commentary Tracks
- Featurette: Stunts
- Featurette: Inside the Agency
- Featurette: Making Up the Monsters
- Featurette: Season 2 Overview
- Still Gallery
- ROM: 2 Scripts
- ROM: Blueprints