And the first season of Angel is finished. I actually finished it last night (well more like 3 AM today but whatever), and I’m not going to lie. Considering the season’s twist ending (and the serious shift towards serialized, myth-arc heavy storytelling in the final disc), I almost don’t want to watch the third season of Mad Men and instead just jump into season 2 of Angel. I’m not going to do that because I hate screwing up my system fro my blog. It keeps my indecision and OCD in check (although my drive to do things by the standard I set for this blog are probably an extension of my OCD). However, damn! Those final two episodes of the season were among some of the most intense episodes of the series yet. So, kudos to Joss Whedon and crew (I feel like I never give enough credit to Tim Minear and David Greenwalt for these things) for bringing the strong first season of Angel to an excellent close. I still don’t like the series more than Buffy, but as I’ve said in past posts, there’s seven seasons of attachment to those characters. Angel still hasn’t earned that kind of goodwill yet even if it is off to a much better start than Buffy was at the same point in its career.

The first episode was relatively self-contained although it did introduce a new character who eventually becomes one of the main characters on the show. Angel runs afoul of a street gang that fights vampires despite being ordinary humans. Led by the headstrong Charles Gunn (J. August Richards), the group wages war against the L.A. vampire clans despite the never-ending stream of casualties they face. Though they initially think that Angel is a foe, he is able to convince them that they need his help after Gunn’s sister is captured by the vampires, turned into a vampire, and then Gunn is forced to dust her. In the second episode, Wolfram & Hart attorney Lindsay McDonald (Christian Kane) suffers a crisis of conscience when he learns that Wolfram & Hart plans to send a supernatural blind assassin to murder three children that pose a threat to the company. He enlists Angel’s help to stop the travesty from occurring, and when Angel breaks into Wolfram & Hart to find out the plans for when and where to murder the children, he stumbles upon the Prophecies of Aberjian (but more on that next episode) which he also steals from the office because he was supernaturally drawn to them. However, despite helping Angel with this theft, Lindsay decides to stay with Wolfram & Hart when his ambition catches the eyes of Senior Partner Holland Manners (Lost‘s Sam Anderson) who offers him a promotion to Junior Partner. In the final episode, Wolfram & Hart is desperate to regain control of the prophecy (which Wesley has translated and by the end of the episode believes that they mean that if Angel fulfills an unspecific destiny he can regain his humanity). They send a demon after Angel who nearly kills Wesley with a bomb and mind rapes Cordelia by using her visions to make her experience all of human suffering at once. He even kills the Oracles. While Angel is able to defeat him and recover the Prophecies which Wolfram & Hart had stolen back (and cutting off one of Lindsay’s hands in the process), he isn’t able to stop Wolfram & Hart from performing part of the prophecy which involved raising the Beast. It turns out in a last minute twist in the finale that the raised Beast is in fact Darla (Julie Benz), aka Angel’s sire. Interesting.

“War Zone” had several pretty awesome fight scenes. Whether it was the big gang brawl between Gunn’s people and the vampires or Angel fighting off all of Gunn’s men by himself, the episode had a lot of great action moments. I liked the introduction of the David Nabitt character. He was supposed to be a recurring character (and he shows up again in the season finale) but for scheduling reasons that didn’t happen which is a shame because he added some nice comic relief. I’m not sure how I feel about the character of Gunn yet. He’s got the tragic backstory part down pat but other than that, he doesn’t feel especially well developed to me. However, he hasn’t joined Angel Investigations yet so he’ll have plenty of time to develop in the future. “Blind Date” was probably my favorite episode of the disc (and one of the best of the series so far) because it really took the darkness of Angel to a whole ‘nother level. Like, you thought it was going to be one of those redemption stories and that Lindsay McDonald was going to die atoning for his sins at Wolfram & Hart. Instead, he chooses the darkness over the light even when he’s given a clean way to escape from Wolfram & Hart. It was just a great twist for the ending. “To Shanshu in L.A.” was also great (not even counting the clever pop culture reference in the title if you get the final translation of Shanshu that Wesley gives Angel). There was a really interesting philosophical discussion between Wesley and Cordelia about what drives Angel and whether he could even be alive in a meaningful sense of the word since he is so cut off from the rest of the world. Also, what the main demon did to Cordelia by making her feel all of humanity’s suffering was one of the most messed up things to happen in the series yet. Also, obviously, anything that involves the return of Darla should make for compelling drama next season. Thankfully, Mad Men only has 13 episode seasons I won’t have to wait too long to find out what happens.

I can’t believe I’m going to be watching Mad Men for the first time in like a month today. It’s definitely going to be a serious change of pace from Angel (and a serious change of pacing). I’m definitely glad that Angel finally reached its turn in my (lengthy) queue of TV shows that I want to review for this blog. As far as first seasons go, this was a pretty strong opening statement, and unlike even the best seasons of Buffy (except for Season 5 which was pretty uniformly excellent), I never once felt like in this season of Angel that I was forcing myself to sit through mediocre or bad episodes so I could get to the better stuff. That was always my major complaint about both Buffy and Doctor Who (well until Steven Moffat took over the latter). It seems like the writing on Angel is just consistently excellent (though obviously some stories are better than others). Thankfully, the show that I’m watching in between seasons of Angel is arguably the best show on TV right now. Mad Men should definitely make the time between seasons of Angel much easier to handle. I’ll be back soon L.A.

Final Score: A-

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