First aired:5th October 1999
David Boreanaz – Angel
Charisma Carpenter – Corelia Chase
Glenn Quinn – Francis Doyle
Christian Kane – Lindsey McDonald
Tracy Middendorf – Tina
Vyto Ruginis – Russell Winters
Spin Off Specifics:
Where did is spin-off from? Buffy the Vampire Slayer
When did it spin-off from? This season ran alongside Buffy’s season 4.
What is different? Rather than continue the high-school/college metaphor, this really looks at life in your 20’s after moving to a new place. It’s about finding out who you are and what you are here for.
Was it necessary? There wasn’t much left for Angel to do in Sunnydale and it was felt he could sustain a spin-off and the networks saw dollar signs, so there was room for it, but wasn’t really necessary.
How did it compare? It was originally a companion show, but very much became it’s own thing later and compare very well.
Plot:Los Angeles California. A drunk man espouses the vitures of his ex-girlfriend to a certainly uninterested man at a bar, whilst behind him, a trio of men are making moves on a couple of maybe college aged girls? After playing pool, they take them into the alley, they are vampires and the girls are their next meal. Before any of them get to eat, the drunk man is back, looking for his car. The vampires try to attack him as well, but are beaten quite severley, until one by one they are staked through the heart and turned to dust. The drunk man was neither, being a vampire who wanted to protect the girls from their grisly fates. He chases the would be victims away and returns to his flat under an office in a non-descript building. This is the home of Angel, the vampire with a soul.
Once home, he is interrupted from his brooding by half demon Doyle, who regales Angel with Angel’s own life story. The basics are which are.
Liam was a bit of a drunken layabout in mid 18th century Galway in Ireland. He was killed and turned by Darla and became a fierce and brutal vampire known as Angelus. After a century and a half of murder, toture and any number of evil acts, he killed a gypsy girl, whose family cursed him with the worst curse imaginable, they restored his human conscience. After 90 or so years of avoiding humanity, he met a Vampire Slayer called Buffy and fell in love. Once their relationship became physical and he attained a degree of perfect happiness, his soul was lost and he became Angelus again. When he soul was restored again, he chose to leave Buffy, run away to LA and slay vampires to atone for the horrors he committed, or at least were committed using his hands.
Angel is unimpressed by this, since this was his life story, he was there. Buy Doyle points out that his avoidance of humanity, despite saving them from time to time is only going to make things worse, eventually he will need to feed and the less connected he is to the world, the less stops him from snacking on the odd human. What he needs to do is save people, get into their lives and connect with them. Doyle has been sent visions by the Powers That Be and those visions are meant to guide Angel. His first case is to find a woman called Tina, who works at the coffee spot.
Tina is a stressed waitress, who appreciates Angel’s friendly demeanour, but immediately suspects him to have been sent by Russell Winters, her ex boyfriend, whom she seems to be in terror of. Convincing her that he’s not, he offers her a lift to a party where Tina tries to get some owed money off the hostess, while Angel meets a Hollywood agent who wants to recruit him and catches up with Sunnydale alumn Cordelia Chase, who is an aspiring actress. As Tina and Angel leave, they are attacked by Stacy, a guy working for Russell, who takes Tina with him, whilst 3 guys try to restrain Angel in the elevator. Although the doors close, we can see where this is going and Angel is able to punch Stacy out and takes Tina to his place. She expects him to try and get romantic, but he points out that he doesn’t think someone else taking advantage of her is what’s needed right now. Tina talks about Russell and mentions an actress that went missing. While Tina sleeps, Angel heads to the library and an internet search leads to him finding this girl having been killed and that this MO matches a number of missing girls.
Tina wakes from a nightmare, to find Angel and the note he used to find her and she runs, believing once more that Russell is behind this. Angel follows, but rushes into direct sunlight, burning his hand and forcing his face to turn into it’s vampire look. Tina runs in terror and makes it home to find Russell, who being a vampire himself kills her and drinks her dry. Night falls, Angel finds the body and is wracked with guilt and rage. He wants blood, he wants Russell.
Russell is meeting with his lawyer, (representing the company Wolfram & Hart) who provides an alibi for Russell, who is now watching the video of the party Tina was at and sees Cordelia and wants to meet her, well more like eat her. He phones the party hostess Margo, who calls Cordelia and sets up a meet. Cordelia is happy to be driven in a limo to Russell’s house. As this is going on, Angel has found Stacy and after convincing him to part with Russell’s address, heads there himself.
Cordelia at Russell’s house opens up over her struggle with her acting career and looks for a mirror to clean herself up, seeing no mirrors and big, really big curtains realises that Russell is a vampire and makes a run for it. Just then Angel breaks in and the lights go out. He battles Russell to a standstill and under gunfire gets Cordelia out and with Doyle driving, he gets her to his place.
The next morning Angel walks into a meeting that includes Russell and his lawyer amongst others and after Russell tries to rationlise his evils, kicks him out of the window, where Russell burns up in the sunlight. Angel walks away, complimenting the lawyer’s suit.
Later Cordelia and Doyle talk Angel into setting up a detective agency to help fund his quest to save lives and souls.
Notes: It’s not uncommon tor spin-offs to start of stronger than the shows that they come from. This mostly comes from most of the world building having already been done and the cast and crew being more experienced than they were in the past, so we can expect this show to do better than it’s precurser from day one. So that being the case is neither unexpected, nor anything to praise.
First the good, Glenn Quinn plays the role of Doyle, acting as guide and voice of self interest in the show and does well at it. It’s not much of a role, but Quinn does his best. Carpenter plays her shallow and bitchy self with an undercurrent of insecurity and fear, adding light to the show’s shadow whilst not being played for laughs. The evil law firm is a nice touch and fleshes out the world of LA in a way that reminds you that this isn’t Sunnydale. We also get a pained performance from Tracy Middendorf, who smiles with so much sadness and fear written on her face, it’s not a great role, but she is great in it. But this isn’t about that, this is about Angel. After three years of playing the role is very much at home with the vampire with a soul and wastes no time getting back into the swing of it. This is a man in pain, tortured by all the pain he caused when not in control of his actions, but unable to seperate himself from it, since he remembers both doing it all and most of all enjoying it. When not brooding he’s wry and snarky and just a tiny bit goofy. Given the spotlight he does quite well and is ideally placed to headline this show.
Okay, the not good. This cast deserves a better episode. It’s dripping with cheese, but seemingly devoid of the self awareness that it needs to carry it off. The stunt work is choppy and what could have been the episodes stand out fight scene (the scene in the elevator) happens off camera. There are funny moments, like Angel getting into the wrong car, that fall flat since we haven’t really seen his car enough to make it a feature of the show, it felt like a second episode joke. The final scene with Russell looks like a show from 10 years earlier with entire chunks bitten out of the scenery and it’s only the Wolfram & Hart guy that makes that scene anything less than cringe-worthy. This show has a good pedigree, good cast, great ideas and has a bit of the shine brushed off by a few little flaws. The idea of the detective agency is great to showcase the show’s status quo and the exposition on Angel’s life is great for anyone who hasn’t watched it’s parent show, but the episode starts and ends with lacklustre establishing shots that don’t really start or end anything. It’s like there was scenes written for this show, that weren’t filmed and the episode suffers for it.
Does it work? Yes, but only just.
Does much need fixing? Again, it’s only just, but we have the basis for a really good show already in place.
Does it stand up? Honestly, no. This was a poor showing for a pilot, which is a shame, since neither the plot or cast are really at fault.
Do I want to watch the next one? No, if, but I only did a Buffy-verse re-watch a year or so ago, so it’s more of a yes really.
Did I enjoy it? Yes, for all it’s flaws, it’s fun.
Overall: 4 out of 5. A solid spin-off, if not TV gold just yet.