Angel

The successful 1997 television series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, introduced several new vampire characters as objects of the Slayer’s deadly intentions. However, one of the vampires proved distinctive, Angel or Angelus (David Boreanaz). He was young and handsome. He appeared to be only a few years older than vampire slayer Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Geller), but in fact was some 240 years old. After an intense but doomed attempt to have a relationship with Buffy, he left for Los Angeles and for five years was head of his own detective agency, searching for redemption.

Angel was born as Liam in 1727, in Galway, Ireland, the son of a cloth merchant. Living a life in the taverns, he eventually met a woman named Darla (Julie Benz) who turned out to be a vampire. She sired him and as a vampire he took the name Angelus, a reference to his reputation as a vicious monster with an angelic face. He spent the first decades as a vampire in Europe. He killed freely, like other vampires, lacking any conscience.

Early victims included his own family and neighbors. His search for further victims eventually led him to eastern Europe. In 1898, Angelus slew the favorite daughter of a tribe of Romanian Gypsies. In retaliation, the Kalderash clan cursed him by restoring his human soul, thus afflicting him with a conscience and condemning him to an
eternity of remorse for the many people he had killed as Angelus. From that time forward, in spite of the blood lust, he found himself unable to feed on a human being. He changed his name from Angelus to Angel, and shortly thereafter, he moved to America.

He lived alone and shunned the company of other vampires. Angel found his way to the California town of Sunnydale in the mid-1990s, where he renewed his acquaintance with some old friends, Darla and The Master. He refused the offer of The Master to return to the fold. In the meantime Angel took a liking to Buffy and made himself her self-appointed guardian, warning and protecting her. One evening, as three vampires sent by the Master attacked Buffy, Angel helped defeat them.

His intervention warned her of the Master’s initial attempt to establish himself in Sunnydale, taking advantage of a particular moment each century, the Harvest. Later, he again came to her aid and was injured. Buffy found herself falling in love with him, as she cared for his wounds.

Angel soon had to confront two new vampires who arrived in Sunnydale to fill the vacuum caused by the death of the Master: Drusilla, whom he had driven mad and sired; and Spike (James Marsters), whom Drusilla (Juliet Landau) had sired.

While Buffy was concentrating on Spike and Drusilla, Angel placed his ability to feel human emotion in jeopardy when he and Buffy shared an intimate moment. The result was disastrous; Angel lost his soul (conscience) and reverted to his previous persona of Angelus. As the second season ended, Buffy now realized that she had to destroy the evil vampire with whom she had fallen in love, stabs him with a sword, and sends him to the hell realms.

He returned the next season after what had been a century in hell-time and spent much of the season readjusting to life as Angel again. He recovered and won everyone’s trust in time to fight the last battle on Buffy’s graduation day. But knowing that his relationship with Buffy was doomed, he withdrew from Sunnydale (and the Buffy the Vampire Slayer show and moved to Los Angeles.

Angel’s further adventures would continue on his own show, called simply Angel, which finds him in Los Angeles fighting evil, including his fellow vampires, but trying to find some means of ridding himself of his load of guilt, balancing the ledger of his life that now weighed against him with the many people he has killed, and looking for some possible future redemption. Meanwhile, as he moves through the city, he runs into Cordelia Chase, one of Buffy’s classmates who had joined her circle of vampire fighters,but who was in Los Angeles unsuccessfully pursuing an acting/modeling career and broke. She talks her way into a job by convincing Angel to form a detective agency to give a business-like structure to his activities, as well as provide an income.

They are initially joined at Angel Investigations by Doyle, a half-demon with the ability to have visions of people in distress and in need of their services. Doyle also supplies a connection to “The powers that be,” an ancient being who operated from a different dimension, and who, as far as they have the ability (which is strictly limited), guides humanity in goodness. When Doyle is killed, he passes his powers to Cordelia.

Angel Investigations is subsequently joined by former watcher Wesley Wyndam-Pryce (Alexis Denisof), now describing himself as a “rogue demon hunter,” and the street-wise demon fighter, Charles Gunn (J. August Richards). They are also assisted by demon and karaoke bar-owner Lorne (Andy Hallett), whose major ability is sensing the futures of people when they sing for him.

Emerging as the major enemy opposing Angel Investigations is the large law firm of Wolfram & Hart, a powerful international law firm, that is actually a front organization for a demonic cabal known as the Wolf, Ram, and Hart, who now appear as the firm’s Senior Partners. Among the first actions against Angel is sending the rogue vampire slayer, over whom Wesley had watched, Faith (Eliza Dushku) to kill Angel. She is defeated and under Angel’s influence begins her own redemptive process. Along the way, the team enters into another dimension where they encounter psychically wounded Fred, who eventually joins their team adding her genius level intellect.

Angel’s life takes a new direction when Darla resurfaces, pregnant with what proves to be their son Connor. Soon after his birth, however, Connor is stolen by Angel’s old enemy Holtz who takes Connor into the hell dimension where he is raised to think that Angel is completely evil. When they return, with Connor now a young man, Holtz commits suicide in such a way it appears Angel has murdered him. Angel has now to attempt a reconciliation with his estranged son, deal with a possessed Cordelia who has lost her memory, and a powerful Beast creature who seems beyond him and his team. In order to kill the latter, he has to relinquish his soul for a time and revert to his Angelus persona.

To deal with Connor, he makes a deal with Wolfram & Hart to take over their offices in Los Angeles. In return Connor’s memories are erased and he is placed with a normal family. Cordelia was finally freed from the evil entity Jasmine who had possessed her, but immediately fell into a coma. She revived only for a short time before dying, though she later reappeared as a spirit entity. After the final battle in Sunnydale that left only a crater where the city had one existed, Spike survived as a spirit who popped up at Wolfram & Hart to join the fight against evil. He finally gets his body back. Once he and Angel resolve their jealousies over Buffy, they become staunch allies.

In the end, Angel comes to see that he cannot stop the forces of evil represented by Wolfram & Hart, but he can have a temporary victory by severing the Senior Partners’ hold on Earth. He and his remaining team assassinate the members of the Circle of the Black Thorn, the group through which the Senior Partners work on Earth. In the process Wesley is killed and Gunn is wounded but manages to make it to the spot behind the Hyperion Hotel in Los Angeles. He joins Angel, Spike, and Illyria (a demon who has taken over Fred’s body), for the final battle with the forces the Senior Partners have aligned for their destruction.

As the final episode ends they move forward with the words, “Let’s go to work.”Angel—

The Comic Book:

In 1999, Dark Horse Comics, which had the license for the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics, began publishing an Angel comic book. Two series appeared before it was discontinued in 2002. Then in 2005, IDW picked up the license and began issuing Angel comics as a set of successive miniseries. Then in 2007, creator Joss Whedon authorized a continuation of the story from the Angel television show. The story was developed by writer Brian Lynch working with Whedon.

In Angel: After the Fall, the battle with the Senior Partners results in the movement of the city of Los Angeles into a hell dimension. In an attempt to deprive him of his strength and immortality when he needed it most, the Senior Partners have also turned Angel into a human, forcing Angel and Wesley to rely on mystical enchantments to provide Angel with at least a measure of his old abilities. He begins to reassemble his team, including Illyria. Lorne helps recruit new friends. In the process, Connor is killed.

They defeat the demons that infest Los Angeles, but the city is still the target of the Senior Partners. Angel finally devises a scheme. Knowing that they need him alive, he allows Gunn to kill him. Time began again, they are returned to the spot behind the hotel ready to fight and defeat the forces sent by Wolfram & Hart. Everyone, including Connor, retained their memory of what has occurred and Angel became a hero.

Angel as Cult Phenomenon:

Though never as popular as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and its characters attained a following of their own, especially in the year after the end of the Buffy episodes, when Angel continued. Among the most important items indicative of the show’s permeation of the popular culture, along with the comic books, were a set of young adult novels some of which, like the Buffy novels, were translated into several languages, including German and French.

There were also a number of action figures and trading card sets. Along with Buffy, Angel attracted the attention of the scholarly community as part of the larger Whedonverses. Consideration of the show manifested in a number of academic papers delivered at the various Whedonverses conferences, and at least two books. Spike, who came to rival Angel as the most popular vampire character, bolstered the crossover attention between the two television series.
Most of the comic books featuring Spike have been part of the Angel comics from IDW.

Angel was portrayed by David Boreanaz. The part was his first big break, though he had earlier had a bit part in one vampire movie, Macabre Pair of Shorts (1996). He followed eight years of work on first Buffy the Vampire Slayer and then Angel with several movies, before starring in the very successful ongoing series, Bones, beginning in 2005. He has been the subject of an annual wall calendar since 1999.

Sources:

  • Abbott, Stacey, ed. Reading Angel: The TV Spin-off with a Soul. London: I. B. Tauris, 2005. 265 pp.
  • Golden, Christopher, and Nancy Holder. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Watcher’s Guide. New York:
    Pocket Books, 1998. 298 pp.
  • Holder, Nancy, with Jeff Mariotte and Maryelizabeth Hart. Angel: The Casefiles. Vol. 1. New York:
    Simon Pulse, 2002. 405 pp.
  • Ruditis, Paul. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Watcher’s Guide. Volume 3. New York: Simon Spotlight,
    2004. 359 pp.
  • Stafford, Nikki. Once Bitten: An Unofficial Guide to the World of Angel. Toronto: ECW Press, 2004.
    438 pp.
  • Topping, Keith. Hollywood Vampire: A Revised and Updated Unofficial and Unauthorized Guide to
    Angel. London: Virgin, 2001. 280 pp.
  • Yeffeth, Glenn, ed. Five Seasons of Angel: Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Discuss Their Favorite
    Vampire. Dallas, TX: Benbella Books, 2004. 216 pp.