Angel, The WB
Amazon; A.V. Club; BBC; Hulu; IMDb; Retro Junk; Thrilling Detective; TNT; TV.com; TV Tango; TV Tropes; TWoP; Wikia; Wikipedia
For more links see fantasy & sci-fi shows links (under "Buffy").
Long, long ago, there was a vampire called the Master. He was the major bad guy in the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But long before that, in the Virginia Colony in 1609, he sired a prostitute who was dying of Syphilis, thus sort of saving her life. (At this point I will mention, in case you didn't know, that "siring" is a term used in many different vampire mythologies to refer to a vampire turning a human into a vampire, generally by first feeding on the victim's blood, then having them drink the vampire's own blood.) I dunno what her original name was, but she came to be called Darla (Julie Benz). In 1753, Darla sired an Irish cad named Liam (David Boreanaz), and he became known as Angelus. They became a couple, and had lots of fun, wandering around and killing people and drinking their blood, and whatnot. In 1764, they killed the family of a vampire hunter named Daniel Holtz. Actually, they killed his wife and most of their children, and sired one young daughter, forcing Holtz to kill her himself. He would pursue Darla and Angelus for nearly a decade, after that. In 1773, Holtz struck a deal with a demon named Sahjhan to become a statue for a few hundred years or whatever. In London in the mid 1800s, Darla showed Angelus a rather devout young woman named Drusilla (Juliet Landau), who much to her own dismay, was cursed/gifted with prophetic visions. Darla and Angelus stalked her for some time, and then I believe in 1860, she ran away to a convent. Angelus killed her friends and family, and her psychic visions of their deaths drove her mad. Finally, he sired her. Ah yes, and we all love the insane, psychic vampires, don't we? (We certainly like Dru, anyway.) In 1880, there was a pathetic young Englishman who wanted to be a poet, but he was bloody awful at it. He wasn't much good with the ladies, either. Or much of anything. His name was William (James Marsters). Dru sired him, and he came to be called Spike. He got pretty cool, after that. And they became a couple. Anyway, the four of them roamed around having their ungodly fun, and whatnot. But in 1898, Darla gave Angelus a gypsy girl to torture, feed on, and kill. But then one of the girl's people put a curse on him; she restored his soul. Now, just imagine having a soul and having to look back on all the evil you'd done as a vampire. That'd suck! Oh, the guilt! Oh the torment! Oh... the angst! ...But anyway, he was still a vampire. But now he was good. And miserable. Anyway, he started calling himself Angel. ...And part of the curse (though he didn't know this at the time) was that if he ever experienced a moment of true happiness, he would lose his soul and go back to being Angelus. Anyway, his three friends kicked him out of the gang, and then he wandered around by himself, for the most part. Now, about the Master... he's popped up now and again in the lives of these other vampires, and then in 1937, he's ready to open the Hellmouth under Sunnydale, with their help. But an earthquake traps him down there, where he'll be trapped for decades. He awaits the Harvest, when he may be freed. (This will happen in season one of Buffy, 1997.) Anyway, in 1996, a demon named Whistler took Angel to L.A. and showed him a girl named Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar), who had just found out she was the Slayer. He didn't meet her yet, though. Instead, he moved to Sunnydale, where Buffy and her mom would coincidentally move the next year. (I guess the Hellmouth is just a big coincidence magnet.) Then he helped out Buffy and her friends. At one point in season one, he killed Darla. And before long, he fell in love with Buffy, and they dated for awhile. In season two, he slept with Buffy and lost his soul, but he later got it back. (Long story.) After a few seasons of that show, he broke up with her and moved to L.A., and started Angel Investigations.
Well, I must say I don't like this series quite as much as Buffy, but it's still pretty high on my list. Very cool, very dramatic, engaging, interesting, complex, funny as hell, with great writing, acting, characters, and stories. Of course it's also much more dark and brooding than the series that spawned it, which is only natural. Even its theme music (which kinda reminds me of the theme from an even darker show, Millennium) is dark and broody. The over-arching theme of this series is redemption. Anyway... I'll try to mention some of the major story arcs and developments, but leave out as many details as I can, as well as the more or less unrelated stories.
This is the last season I saw. I didn't have a chance to watch the show until season 2, but finally, some time after the series ended, I got season 1 on DVD. Anyway, after season 3 of Buffy, Angel moves to L.A. There he meets Doyle, a half human/half demon, who gets visions from The Powers That Be, of terrible things happening. He tells Angel about these visions, and they go off to fight the nasty demons or whatever. Angel also meets up with Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter), who has moved from Sunnydale to L.A., trying to get an acting career started. In the meantime, she starts working for Angel, who starts a detective agency called Angel Investigations. She tries to get him to start charging people for saving their lives, a concept that doesn't come natural to Angel. Doyle likes Cordy, but she isn't interested in him... even though she doesn't know he's half demon. At one point Cordy moves into a new apartment, which turns out to be haunted. This is bad at first, when it's haunted by an old woman's ghost who always gets new tenants to kill themselves, but once she's been dealt with, the place is haunted by the friendly, protective ghost of her son, Dennis. A very important element of the series is an evil lawfirm, Wolfram & Hart, which defends a lot of very bad people and demons and whatnot. The Senior Partners have big plans, reaching from the ancient past into the apocalyptic future. They are not happy about Angel's frequent interference in their plans. A couple of the main lawyers we meet who work for the firm are Lilah Morgan and Lindsey McDonald. Another person Angel meets is a cop named Detective Kate Lockley (Elisabeth Röhm). They would help each other out from time to time. At one point, a bit less than halfway through the season, there is a Nazi-ish group of demons called the Scourge, who want to wipe out all half-breed demons, and they've created a device to do this. At the end of this episode, Doyle sacrifices his life to put a stop to the plan. But not before finally kissing Cordy, who had just learned the truth about him. With this kiss, he passes on the visions from TPTB. They're really painful and hard to handle, because she's human, but she deals with it. Soon after Doyle's death, Wesley Wyndham-Pryce (Alexis Denisof) joins Angel Investigations. He had been Faith's Watcher, back in Sunnydale, but after being kicked off the Council, he became a rogue demon-hunter. While he now seems a bit more capable than he did on Buffy, he really isn't much better, at first. He's still a great researcher, very helpful in that department... and as the series goes on, he becomes a very competent fighter, as well. Eventually Kate learns that Angel is a vampire, and there are all sorts of demons and evil things out there. From then on, she doesn't want much to do with him anymore, but she becomes obsessed with finding out about any supernatural crimes, and wiping out "Angel's kind." Especially after her father is killed by vampires. At one point, Faith (Eliza Dushku) comes to town and causes lots of trouble, and gets hired by Wolfram & Hart to kill Angel. She fails, and Angel sets her on a path toward redemption (which ultimately involves turning herself in to the police). In another ep, Angel meets Charles Gunn (J. August Richards), the leader of a street gang that fights vampires. Of course, he and Angel don't exactly hit it off at first, but they soon become occasional allies. At one point, Angel steals an ancient scroll from Wolfram & Hart, which contains a prophecy about a vampire with a soul. Apparently, Angel will someday become human, but only after surviving a whole lot of apocalyptic stuff....
Angel Investigations moves into an old hotel. And Gunn joins the team. There's also a demon called "the Host," who runs a karaoke bar called Caritas, which has a spell on it to prevent any sort of demonic violence inside. (But it unfortunately doesn't prevent non-demonic violence, and the place gets trashed rather badly several times.) The Host has a talent for reading people's auras, or fates, or whatever. But only when he hears them sing. He's a friend to our heroes, and helps out when he can. Also... Wolfram & Hart brings Darla back to life, as a human (actually they did this at the very end of season one). Which I'd call a bit of a misstep on their part. Drusilla turns her back into a vampire, and they go on a killing spree. Angel gets broodier than usual for awhile, cuts himself off from his friends, and eventually sleeps with Darla, without losing his soul. Then I guess he comes back to his senses. Another story arc this season involves the Host's home dimension of Pylea. (This is when we first learn that his name is actually Lorne, short for Krevlornswath of the Deathwok Clan.) He had been glad to escape from Pylea, some time ago. He didn't really fit in there. There's so much that world is lacking, especially music, which he didn't even know what it was until he came here. Anyway... humans there are slaves, but are treated more like livestock. It's really a bad place to be. And a young woman named Winifred "Fred" Burkle (Amy Acker), a brilliant student of like mathemetics and theoretical physics, who worked in a library while going to school, got sucked through a portal into Pylea, where she was stuck for five years. Eventually our heroes go to Pylea to rescue Cordy after she herself got sucked through a portal, and they end up rescuing Fred, as well. But Cordy becomes a princess there, and is supposed to marry a guy called the Groosalugg (Groo, for short). Imagine, a pair of humans ruling a race of demons who think of humans as cows! But there was some ancient prophecy, so what else is new? (It looks like Wolfram & Hart have their paws in that dimension, but that's not made very clear.) Anyway, Cordy and everyone eventually go back home, and Fred starts working with them.
Darla returns, and she's pregnant. Vampires aren't supposed to be able to conceive, so this is kind of a big and unexpected event. She and Angel are going to have a son... a human child born of two vampires. Of course Wolfram & Hart take a keen interest, as does pretty much every other group in the supernatural know. Meanwhile, Sahjhan destatufies Holtz, who now wants to kill Angel and Darla. For her part, Darla saves him the trouble. But he's still got Angel to deal with, and sets about raising his own little army of would-be vampire hunters, starting with a woman named Justine. Um... and then... everyone has relationships that could start, but don't... sort of. Angel is falling in love with Cordy, but then Groo shows up. He'd been king for awhile and made a bunch of reforms in Pylea, and then had to leave. He starts dating Cordy in L.A. and helping out at Angel Investigations. Also, Wesley has a romantic interest in Fred, but she ends up dating Gunn. Um... Cordelia wasn't meant to have her visions, and they were hurting her, killing her actually. So she's given a choice by the Powers (through a demon named Skip) to change her past so that she never got the visions or worked with Angel or anything. She became an actress with a popular TV show, instead. But ultimately she rejects that reality for the original one, because she wants to help people. So to allow her to keep the visions without dying, she becomes part demon, and gets some other powers along with that, which would take her awhile to get used to. Meanwhile, Wesley discovers an ancient prophecy that says Angel's gonna kill his son, Connor. He doesn't tell anyone this, but instead ends up kidnapping Connor to protect him. Eventually it turns out it was a false prophecy Sahjhan had set up in the past. Then Justine slits Wesley's throat and leaves him to die. She gives the baby to Holtz, who takes him into a hell dimension called Quor-toth, which Sahjhan opens a portal into, where Holtz raises him as his own son (whom he calls Stephen), teaching him to fight, to survive, and poisoning his mind against Angel. Meanwhile, Angel now hates Wesley for what he's done, and none of Wesley's other friends will have anything to do with him at this point, either. ...Time moves differently in Quor-toth, so after like a few days or weeks, Connor shows up as a teenager. Holtz, an old man now, follows. Connor (Stephen) thinks of Holtz as his father and wants nothing to do with Angel. Then Angel goes to Holtz to like, patch things up or whatever. Holtz says he's leaving and gives him a letter to give to Connor, but then he has Justine kill him and make it look like Angel had done it. Meanwhile, Groo realizes Cordy loved Angel, so he leaves. It looks like Angel and Cordy will get together, but then Skip shows up and tells Cordelia it's time for her to move to a higher plane of existence, and meanwhile Justine and Connor stick Angel in a coffin and sink it under the ocean. Anything else I should say about this season? Um... there's a lawyer at Wolfram & Hart named Gavin Park (Daniel Dae Kim), who has little verbal sparring matches with Lilah sometimes, but I don't really know what else to say about him. So far he doesn't seem particularly important to the story, but I should make note of his existence. Also Lorne leaves town, heads to Vegas.
Wesley kidnaps Justine and rescues Angel, though he (Wes) is now sleeping with Lilah (disturbing much?) Connor had been working with Fred and Gunn, who didn't know where Angel was or that Connor had anything to do with his disappearance. When they find out, they're pissed. Angel just tells Connor he loves him and then kicks him out of the hotel. Eventually the gang goes to Vegas to visit Lorne, and ends up rescuing him from the casino owner, who was using Lorne's supernatural powers for his own gain. They also want to find Cordy, but then she shows up without her memories. She moves out and stays with Connor. Later, Fred finds out that her favorite old professor had sent her and many other people to Pylea, and Gunn kills him. Their relationship will suffer after that. Later Cordy gets her memory back, but stays with Connor anyway. Then there's this big, rock-hard demon called "the Beast" whom no one seems able to stop, and he does some spell to blot out the sun, so vampires start heading to L.A. to take advantage of the constant night. The good guys eventually remove Angel's soul, as it seems Angelus knew the Beast, though Angel has no memory of him, and they want Angelus to tell them how to stop it. But Angelus escapes to wreak some havoc of his own. And it turns out Cordelia is evil now, and controlling the Beast. The Beast tears up Wolfram & Hart's L.A. offices and slaughters all the employees, including Gavin. Cordy kills Lilah. And Wesley gets Faith out of jail to help fight the Beast. Angelus ends up killing the Beast himself, then the good guys capture him and restore his soul, with some help from Willow (visiting from Sunnydale; she then heads back there, with Faith going along to help the Scoobies). But it seems Cordy is pregnant by Connor (who by the way is working with the good guys again, but he's still got a major chip on his shoulder and was really hoping he'd get to kill Angelus, which was pretty much the only way the others would ever allow him to kill Angel). Eventually a former Power is born from Cordelia, full grown. She comes to be called Jasmine (Gina Torres), and anyone who sees her loves and worships her, and so the world is now at peace. But, it turns out she's eating people, so the good guys have to stop her. And, um, the world is returned to normal. Cordy has been unconscious for some time, however. Wolfram & Hart's offices are magically rebuilt better than ever all of a sudden, and Lilah is brought briefly back from the dead to inform Angel and company that W&H is abandoning L.A., and give their offices and staff to the good guys to make use of. Also, Connor is given a new life with some random family, which is now all he remembers. In fact Angel is the only person in his group who remembers Connor at all.
This season is basically about Angel and the others trying to adapt to their new positions in charge of Wolfram & Hart's L.A. branch. And Gunn gets a ton of legal knowledge downloaded into his brain. And Spike shows up as a sort of ghost, so they have to figure out how to restore his... um, corporealness. Or something. There's also a woman named Eve who is a liaison between Angel and the Senior Partners, who still run the rest of Wolfram & Hart, elsewhere, which is of course still evil. Eve seems to be the only one besides Angel who knows about Connor. Oh, and Harmony (a minor recurring vampire from Sunnydale) shows up as Angel's secretary. Lindsey (who had betrayed the Senior Partners at some point) also shows up to make trouble for both Angel's group and the Senior Partners, and Eve helps him, so they both get in trouble eventually. Eve is replaced by some tough guy named Marcus Hamilton (Adam Baldwin), who's even more trouble than Eve was. Eventually Cordy dies, but not before appearing to have returned. And some ancient goddess named Illyria is reborn in Fred's body (thus killing Fred, who had only just started dating Wes, who is now devastated). Wes starts trying to teach Illyria to live in the world as it now was, which she doesn't like at all. I'm sure I'm forgetting countless important things, but in the end, Angel joins an evil group called the Circle of the Black Thorn, who run things on Earth for the Senior Partners. But he only gets in so he can find out who they all are and he and his friends can kill them all. Which seriously pisses off the Senior Partners, who unleash an unspeakable horde of demons and things for the good guys to fight, already severely weakened from the fight against the Circle. Thus ends the series, with another epic battle about to begin....
There have been some comic books which may be considered canon, so someday I'll have to read and review those.