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Angel - Season 3 So Far
Reviewed by Rachel K. Ivey, ©

Format: TV
By:   Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt
Genre:   Horror / Comedy / Fantasy
Released:   Premiered Sept. 24, 2001
Review Date:  

Angel made a strong debut on The WB two years ago when the popular character of the brooding vampire with a soul, Angel, from the hit show Buffy the Vampire Slayer , was given his own series. But it was more than just another spin-off show. Instead of trying to duplicate its parent show exactly, it took the successful formula of Buffy and moved it into the adult world. Angel was to the adult world what Buffy was and is to the high school to college scene; a forum for presenting life's problems in the metaphorical guise of demons and monsters. But unlike Buffy, Angel was not about a kick-ass heroine destined to defend the world from evil. It was about a hero, a very flawed guy who despite a nearly overwhelming pull towards evil, did his best to overcome that pull in order to help people and make amends for his past. It was about adult choices and their consequences. It explored the human condition in a framework of paranormal happenings.

After a largely episodic first season, highlighted by individual, self-contained stories, they took a different turn in season two, opting for a yearlong story arc, as the writers were more used to producing back on the Buffy set. Angel was driven on an emotional quest to deal with his past (in the form of Darla), his present situation (still a vampire and still Buffy-less), and the future (and his place in it). While Angel's own personal journey had many interesting aspects, the new story arc model weakened the show's overall impact on the audience. The show became less about helping others with their problems, and more about dealing with the issues of the main characters themselves, many of which just didn't seem very applicable to anyone else's life.

Angel's third season began well over a month ago, but I'm not entirely sure that the writers realize they're writing for a NEW season and not for the end of the last one. It's as if they're still trying to wrap up the second season. The focus has been heavily on their newest character, Winifred "Fred" Burke, a young woman they rescued at the end of last season from 5 years in a demon dimension. She's a little crazy, and she seems to be in the category of comic relief, at least for now. She appears to be the kind of character which will be developed along the way, and I see real potential, if only to break up the boys' club that Angel Investigations has become.

Of course, comedy is something which the writers do well, having made very funny dialogue in tense situations such a BTVS signature style. My favorite moment so far was a positively surreal conversation between Angel and a ferocious-looking demon warrior named Skip. Angel is about to fight Skip in order to release Skip's prisoner from his torture, but rather than exchanging threats or taunts, we find them introducing themselves and discussing Skip's commute time to work.

We can only speculate about what's in store for this season. As mentioned in the Fall TV Preview, the main villain will be someone from Angel's and Darla's past. (Check the Angel spoiler section for details.) It isn't giving anything away to say that Darla will play a major part, since it's already been established that she's pregnant with Angel's child. Despite the fact that a vampire pregnancy seems to be violating existing Buffy-verse rules, it's a very interesting plot point which NO ONE saw coming.

Otherwise, although Angel's writers are sticking with the story arc model for this season, they still haven't given viewers any indication what that storyline will be. There have been a couple of clues as to who the villain(s) will be, but if you're in the "spoiler free" crowd, you don't even know that much. The episodes are floundering around just waiting for the "real" part of the show, the main plot thread, to get going. This season has been like being stuck on hold for a long time; it doesn't matter how much you like the music you're listening to, you'd still just rather get the phone call over with.

Still, Angel has the most important thing going for it: character development. No one, from Cordelia to Angel to Wesley, is quite the same person as when he or she was first introduced. They've all faced obstacles and hurts and have not only moved past them but grown stronger and better as a result. They've learned from their mistakes, know they're not perfect, but keep trying to become better people in spite of it all. It is these complexly written characters that keeps viewers tuning in week after week... even when other elements get a little bogged down.

Rachel K. Ivey is a contributing writer for RevolutionSF.

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