Angel – … and being a grown-up

Angel LOTD

Great cast.

If Buffy the Vampire Slayer is about growing up, Angel is about being a grown-up. The two shows fit together nicely and these two similar yet different mission statements make both shows unique in their own way. Sure, sometimes the stories feel similar or incorporate similar elements but they feel different and they are usually told with a different focus or with slightly different conclusion.

Angel is not about what figuring out who you are, Angel is about defining who you are, becoming the Version of yourself you want to be, or sometimes the version you have to be. Angel is about your coworkers, the feelings you have about your coworkers, becoming a dad, trying to be a good dad, disappointments, well-meant betrayal, working for Evil Inc., loss, sacrifices and what it means to keep fighting because let’s face it, once you’re an adult there’s no exit strategy anymore, there’s no real finale with a happy ending, the journey keeps going on whether you’re prepared or not.

I’m not sure whether I prefer Buffy or Angel, I think as a show I prefer Buffy but I like Angel’s chapters more. The first season of Angel was a bit rough, at least until Wesley showed up and I think the show really came together when Fred1 became an integral part of the show. Season 3 is definitely the strongest season. The Fred and Wesley arc is probably one of my favourite romantic arcs ever, the end is obviously heart-breaking and I will always hate Joss for that but damn, it was great television and it brings me to tears every time.

Sometimes the big story arc felt a bit soapy and too plotty2 but it lead to some great character moments and solved some bog storytelling issues that would have dragged the show down, let’s be honest, no-one wants to see a Vampire raising a baby, that might have gotten old real fast.

It’s a shame that Angel got cancelled after only 5 Seasons, I think they had at least one really good season left in them, maybe two but in these 5 seasons the show delivered some great episodes and some truly inspiring moments. I’m not going to list all of them but most of them have to do with Wesley and Fred but don’t forget Smile Time or the birth of Connor and don’t get me started about that Waiting in the Wings.

One of my absolute favourites though is the moment in Season 5 when Spike turns corporeal again. Episode after episode you wonder when and how they are going to do that and then they turn it into a hilarious slapstick moment, you just have to love that. It’s the little things that keep us entertained.

Angel screen shot 2015 07 20 at 60524 pm

The perfect shot.

  1. ..and not just because Amy Acker is really cute.
  2. That’s whedonspeech, with the “y” at the end there.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Growing up…

41GNxsP3G0L AC UL320 SR226 320

Slayer of Vampires

I’m a huge Joss Whedon fan, who isn’t, but I consider myself among the lucky people who knew his work before The Avengers. Not that there’s anything wrong with loving his Marvel Masterpiece but it feels good to appreciate someone before everyone else did. Since it has been 20 years since Buffy premiered, I don’t have to worry about spoiling anything but if you haven’t seen Buffy and Angel stop reading now and go watch it.

I don’t remember when and how exactly I started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer but it must have been around 19981 and I immediately fell in love with the show2. I was exactly the right age to relate to the characters and their problems and it the fact that the characters and their problems grew (up) with me made the show all the more exciting. Buffy was/is genre TV at its best, I love the story-arcs and even the standalone episodes have monsters that stand as a metaphor for a familiar problem growing up. I don’t and didn’t mind that the main character is a girl, hell I like girls and the show probably had a big influence on the type of girls I like.

One could say that I grew up with Buffy and the Scoobies and they heavily influenced me and how I see problems and how I deal with them. Don’t get me wrong, I not a Rogue Demon Hunter3 but I learned many lessons from Buffy. Not all demons are bad, sometimes people change from bad to good or the other way round and generally, as long as you work together, even the Apocalypse is avertable. Not bad lessons for a TV show about a girl who kills vampires.

I’m currently rewatching the whole Buffyverse and I’m surprised how well the shows hold up. Sure, the effects are not to current standards but that doesn’t matter, Buffy was never about dusting vampires or slaying demons was always about the emotions that led up to the confrontation with the monster. Some episodes are a bit on the nose but it was never condescending4 with a positive message. Even the really heart-breaking stuff like Angel turning evil or Buffy dying is used to perfection to create great emotional television moments. There are so many great moments but I’m not going to make a Top 10 List but I want to mention a few that are still with me, either because of their emotional impact or because they were just really good storytelling.

Angel turning evil after a moment of pure bliss is one of my favourite moments in TV history. Sure, the metaphor is on the nose and it’s interesting that the real thing that obviously inspired this choice happens in season 4. The whole season 2 Storyline with Angel is just great.

Another of my favourite moments is near the end of season 2 when her classmates name her “Class Protector”, I think I cried a little bit, it was just a powerful moment and yeah, killing the mayor was fun as well.

The season 5 finale The Gift and especially the final moment is probably one of the best season finales ever and it’s fitting that another of of my great moments happened in the season opener, at the end of a mediocre Dracula episode Buffy’s sister Dawn show up for the first time. What the $#!&, did I miss something? A great moment because it made you wonder what the deal with her was.

Last but not least, Buffy’s speech and Willow’s magic in in the series finale Chosen. Sure it basically feminism but I have no problem with that, none whatsoever, it’s great television and a powerful message to girls (and boys), the power is yours for the taking, what a great way to end a great show.

It’s no coincidence that most of these moments occur in episodes written and directed by Joss Whedon and I strongly recommend to check out all his episode not just Hush and Once More with Feeling. I also recommend listening to his audio-commentaries, especially “Becoming” where he reveals the secret to good storytelling, “emotional resonance and rocket-launchers”. You gotta love this guy.

There have been other great shows that stuck with me but no other show influenced me that much. The only other non Joss Whedon show (there will be a separate post about Angel and I will definitely write something about Firefly as well) that influenced me like Buffy did is Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing, Buffy made me a feminist, Josh Lyman a liberal5.

So yeah, If you haven’t seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer or if it has been a while, revisit it. It’s definitely worth your time and it might make you a better person in the process. That’s pretty good for a 20 year old TV show. I doubt you can say that about Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

Stay tuned for the second part of the Joss Whedon appreciation month, my post about Angel will follow soon.

000252735 217862398647

Still looking good.

  1. The show premiered in 1997 in the States so it probably aired here a year or so later.
  2. …and Buffy and Willow.
  3. Wesley is my favourite Buffyverse character though.
  4. Except that beer episode.
  5. Looks like I have to write about The West Wing as well. Damn.