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Angel: Fangs for the Memories
Reviewed by Gary Mitchel, © 2004

Format: TV
Released:   Aired May 19, 2004
Review Date:   May 23, 2004
RevSF Rating:   10/10 (What Is This?)

No more mister bumpy face. No more gloomy brooding in the shadows. No more Joss Whedon weekly on my TV.

That's what really hurts. Joss is one hell of a TV genius, and it's a sad thing that WB and FOX won't have him to kick around anymore.

With one hell of a show, "Angel" ends. "Buffy" got seven years, five on WB while UPN gave us the last two. "Angel" gets five and no one picks it up. What, UPN, you needed more money for Smackdown?

Still, considering those last two "Buffy" years, perhaps it's a good thing UPN declined. There were some great moments (mainly "Once More, With Feeling") but those last two seasons really didn't shine like the first five. So perhaps it's best that Mr. Brow bowed out now, at his best.

For its entire run, Angel has had to live under the shadow of She-Who-Stakes, but it was very comfortable there. "Buffy" had some dark moments and times, but the show was built around a girl who really liked shopping at the mall more than demon-slaying. There was always a core where it stayed light and fluffy. Her darkness seemed to just be whiny and angsty. Then the jokes would came back out and our heroine would bounce back on top.

Angel, however, always knew he had an inner demon (literally) to watch out for and would wallow in the darkness (although I admit it sometimes was too much wallowing). Even at his lightest, Angel's inner darkness was there. "Angel" was the show where the rough edges and darkness took center stage. It was the more mature and of the two shows.

Things never quite wrapped up cleanly on "Angel." There almost always was a serious cost to be paid to put an end to the problems. Doyle died saving a bunch of innocent demons. Angel sacrificed having his son Conner in his life to give him a chance at happiness. Wolfram & Heart's Senior Partners, even after the removal of their main pawns, the Circle of the Black Thorn, will endure to continue their plans to destroy our world. Connor had to kill his own daughter (sort of) to save the world. Fred died. Angel doesn't get either Buffy or werewolf girl and a "happily ever after." Darla staked herself to give Connor a chance at life. In fact, a lot of dark, bad things happened that I don't think would have flown on "Buffy."

This is not to say that Bumpy-Face and his gang were a bunch of gloomy gusses. There were some great comedic bits in the show, which really was unavoidable once "The Tick" mastermind Ben Edlund came on board as a producer. He, David Fury and Joss are some of the funniest guys in entertainment. Some of the funnier moments: The evil demon puppets; Doyle's ex getting re-married, and her groom's family planning to eat his brain to ensure a good marriage; Cordy's being a queen in Lorne's home dimension; Angel singing "Mandy." And just about everything that Lorne ever said or did.

Not everything was perfect. To be honest, I kind of tuned out for most of the third and fourth seasons (Conner annoyed me). I came back just a few episodes before they brought Faith in to take on Angelus and The Beast. From then on, however, I was all the way back. Especially this year.

This fifth season has been the best thing Joss and company have done save "Firefly." Normally, "Buffy" and "Angel" had a "big bad" who serves as the main threat each year. This season the big bad wasn't any one particular entity, but the seductive corruption of the power of Wolfram & Hart. Putting the heroes in charge of the center of Los Angeles' evil allowed each episode to be somewhat self-contained, but gave the season an overarching theme.

We also got some great moments this year. Numero Cinco and Wes's delivery of "El Diablo Robotico." Fred's death and Amy Acker's portrayal of Illeria: She really managed to make them two distinct characters with just her voice and body language. The addition of Spike to the cast and the mayhem he caused. Gunn's flat refusal to even be tempted by Wolfram & Hart lackey Hamilton and going back to having his heart ripped out. "The Apocalypse? You're soaking in it." Lorne's dark side manifesting at the Halloween party, looking like the Hulk. Wes' willingness to kill his father to protect Fred. Conner's look at Angel at the end of "Origin" as he remembers his "real" life. Illeria's kingdoms and armies having been reduced to dust by the ravages of time. The head of the Rome office of Wolfram & Hart. And those are just off the top of my head. The whole season has been gold.

Then there was this finale, which just rocked. I love that they went for the "Butch and Sundance" ending, which was so fitting for the show. "Buffy" got a nice pat little wrap up, where as "Angel" goes out fighting.

I loved the bell in the soundtrack as Angel realized how to beat Hamilton. Gunn's conversation with his friend from the shelter. Spike finally finding an audience who appreciates his poetry. "I crap stronger magic than this." Lindsy's reaction as he dies, and his refusal to believe that a "flunky" kills him. "You just show up for coffee and expect me to believe the world's not ending?" Harmony's betraying Angel, and his expecting it. "Would you like me to lie to you?" "Oh yes, thank you." (And I'm man enough to admit that the death scene got me watery. Joss does deaths very well.) Getting to see Lorne sing one last time, and his exit. "Can I deny you three times?" Angel's willingness to sacrifice his chance at humanity to bring down the Circle. Angel facing down the army of evil in the original alley. "I wish to do more violence." That incredibly cool shot of said evil army, and the last two lines of the show. Some people are going to hate this ending, but I loved it.

This has been one stellar year for "Angel." They say to always go out on top and leave 'em wanting more. "Angel" succeeded on both counts.


 
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