David Boreanaz is better known as the guy who played Sarah Michelle Gellarï¿½s love interest in Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the first three seasons of its existence. Being used sparingly in some parts and shining in his occasional showcase episodes, helped convince Buffy creator Joss Whedon and producer David Greenwalt to give the guy his own spin-off series. And by having the Buffy writers and directors pull some double duty in the beginning before gently phasing in some new creative influences, it’s grown into a spin-off show that, in its fourth season now, arguably gives Buffy a run for its dramatic money. Since Angel was a semi-regular on Buffy but was mysterious, it was safe to assume that more things have to be explained for the show to work. The supporting characters had to be given some more depth as well. Buffy cast regulars were brought in for the occasional show, even two, depending on the storyline. Even Faith was brought in as part of two very episodes late in the season that finally gave Buffy and Angel some long-awaited closure.
Initially, the only character that went straight from Buffy to Angel was Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter), but Wesley (Alexis Denisof) became a mid-season addition who was later included in the regular cast. A couple of new characters were introduced in the mix. Kate Lockley (Elisabeth Rohm) was brought in as a Los Angeles detective who really didn’t provide much in substance outside from showing up to provide Angel information for cases he was pursuing. Although she did find out about Angel’s vampire past which was a nice twist on things.There were a couple of episodes that were done to give her some depth also, and her main conflict was with her father who was also a recently retired LA cop, and the hot and cold relationship the two shared, until his killing by a demon late in the season. Another character named Gunn (J. August Richards) was added in the last 3 episodes of the season, and subsequently became part of the permanent cast just in time for the start of Season 2. Alan Francis Doyle (the late Glenn Quinn) started on the first episode as a half-demon that received visions of people in assistance, which helped Angel in helping people out each week. He was a bit of a mystery in the beginning, until we later find out more about his past (he was married briefly) and his feelings for Cordelia, while having reservations about telling her about his demon side. Sadly, Doyle was killed off of the show in the middle part of the first season, and transferred the power of the visions to Cordelia for future episodes. The recurring protagonist in the show is a legal firm named Wolfram and Hart, a firm that even “Johnnie Cochran wouldn’t join”, and with mind readers, shamans, and other forces helping them in their pursuit of evil in LA, they seem like the perfect group to have hatred for.
Dustings and other vampire characteristics remain, and the bad reaction to light does play a part in the show, as Angel has to resort to going through sewers in order to interact with characters during the day, and the fighting/stunts seemed better also. Maybe it’s the chauvinist in me thinking it seems better because a man is doing the stunts, I dunno. The CG effects are pretty good as well, with one episode in particular which reminded me of the possessed right hand of Ash in Evil Dead 2. Because it’s his show, more sides of Angel are shown with each episode, showing a dry sense of humor, without ditzy valley girl type lines that Sarah Michelle Gellar may have said. There is an episode that shows him doing the over exaggerated white guy techno dance, which must be seen to be fully enjoyed. The first glimpse of his Angelus persona is revealed in this season, setting the stage for more appearances in the future. More of his past is explained also, primarily in flashbacks from the 18th and 19th centuries. A lot of what happens during these flashbacks are things that Angel experiences in present day, but maybe the smartest move of the season was incorporating his past (which I first thought was boring and tedious at times), into the cliffhanger ending involved at the end of the show.
As is the case with most TV shows on DVD, it’s on 1.33:1 full frame video only. Previous opinions of this show have equated the video quality to the recent Season 3 Buffy that came out recently, and this is pretty much the case here. Since black is the trademark Angel color, it has gotta look somewhat close to quality, and it appears to be, despite some grainy areas.
Copy my response for the video portion of the set, and paste it here. It’s 2.0 English, Spanish and French. There’s a bit more in the way of sound effects, as scenes segue with jump cuts and whooshing noises. For the life of the series, both this series and Buffy will remained both in full frame video and 2.0 sound, so any griping I may have everyone else has.
The average Buffy box sets are pretty much limited to 3 or 4 commentaries, a couple of featurettes, and very little else. With this new series, nothing’s really changed, which is a bit disappointing, as one would think that with a new and fairly popular show that some more substantial extras would be part of it, but to no avail. Disc one contains a commentary by creators Whedon and David Greenwalt on City Of. The commentary is recorded together, and as far as commentaries go, it was a pretty enjoyable one. Several mentions to the “hard-core fans” during the show, as well as mentions of certain shots and scenes. The substandard prosthetics used in the first several episodes are addressed, and apologized for, along with the note that the problem has since been corrected.
There’s nothing really that stands out, but the overall track is jovial, bordering on the goofy side. The second (and last) commentary is on Rm W/A Vu, by writer Jane Espenson. I wasn’t too enthusiastic about this one, in going from an experience on a commentary on Buffy Season 3 which I reviewed earlier. This one was a bit better; she talked about the contrast in writing for Angel and Buffy. She also provided some differences between writing for Angel/Buffy and her previous experience in writing for sitcoms, in terms of character writing and stage movement. Her role in writing for Angel is discussed as well. As far as screen specific commentary goes, it’s there, and pretty standard stuff, but the “technical” discussion, for lack of a better word, was interesting to hear about. As far as I can tell, the commentaries aren’t dated.
In terms of non-commentary features, disc 3 has a biography section, which has brief descriptions of the main cast and the characters they portray, along with the creators of the show. They do not include filmographies. It also includes a still gallery of about 35 shots, comprised pretty exclusively from the show, no behind-the-scenes shots. There are also about a dozen still blueprints for the stages as well, of the apartments and a couple of other common areas. Rounding out the disc 3 extras was a 12 minute featurette for the season, a bit of an overview. Since the cast is small at the start of the show, more interview time is spent with the crew and producers, which is a bit of a disappointment. As it’s an overview, there are some clips from various points in the season, so some spoilers are pretty obvious.
The scripts for Five By Five and Sanctuary are here also, and much like previous Buffy box sets, can be navigated using the chapter stop buttons on your remote control. The 6th disc includes 3 small featurettes also, Introducing Angel, which is about 4 minutes, I’m Cordelia, running the same approximate length of time, and The Demons, which is the longest at about 6 minutes. The pieces are all dated 2001, but they’re quick and pretty superficial, nothing of real information here.
It’s a darker, more mature version of the Buffy show, and there are some solid action sequences in here to boot. Angel stands alone on its merits without a lot of backtracking to episodes from Buffy. While I thought there wouldn’t be many special features, I didn’t think they’d be as scarce as they were. Here’s hoping that the season sets improve like the series quality has.