FEATURE: Angel - City Of
Welcome to the new, ongoing rewatch of Angel, the spin-off of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for which, if you don't know, I am already doing a weekly rewatch of. Angel rewatches will be appearing now every Tuesday, running concurrently with the Buffy ones so we can maximise the crossover potential and see how these two shows continue to fit in with each other. So, who's up for a trip to LA?
At the end of the third season of Buffy, Angel announced that he was leaving for Los Angeles as he saw no future in the relationship. He goes to do what he does best. Fight evil in a fashionably long coat. With Batman-esque gadgets and a similar taste for fashion, it's going fairly well, but soon a half-human, half-demon with an Irish accent and buckets of charm shows up, called Doyle. Doyle has visions from the Powers That Be and offers his help to Angel's ongoing quest. Meanwhile, Cordelia has come to LA in the hopes of starting an acting career and it isn't long before her path crosses with Angel's.
A pilot for a spin-off is always a tricky deal. You don't want to make it inaccessible to people who haven't managed to catch the parent show, but it also has to please the fans that have made the jump too. It also has to establish the new tone, new characters and a new location without seeming too forced. A knowledge of Buffy isn't essential for City Of beyond certain character relationships, particularly as Doyle rather handily provides an exposition recap to allow those who aren't familiar with Angel's back story to catch up. It's a nifty trick and thanks to the charismatic presence of Glenn Quinn, it doesn't feel too intrusive.
The general mood sets up everything else with ease and though it still feels like a show searching for its own identity, and will do so for much of the first season, particularly as the investigation format takes hold. There some foundations built for future episodes too with the first appearance of so far unnamed Lindsey and his mysterious, vampire-helping law firm, Wolfram & Hart. These little moments all work to position Angel as the small guy trying to do the right thing in this world. It helps that LA itself is at once both inconceivably large yet claustrophobically threatening, something which had previously been utilised in the Buffy episode, Anne. As Angel's opening narration illustrates, the vastness of the city allows it to become a haven or a hell to all kinds of people.
If Buffy is about the horrors of growing up, then the first season of Angel is about the horrors that result from being a grown-up, from seeing the world through adult eyes and attempting to change it one little bit at a time. Much of this is seen through Tina and then Cordelia as they attempt to navigate their supposedly burgeoning acting career. Here, the career they expected to walk into in that typical 'small-town-girl comes to LA' kind of way hasn't materialised and she finds herself as a potential victim in a stereotypical 'small-town-girl gets lost and killed in LA' kind of way. Unfortunately for Tina, Angel doesn't get there in time. When Angel finds Tina's dead body, it's a moment that comes to define the darker mentality of Angel, one in which sometimes the bad guy gets to win and our hero doesn't get to save the girl.
That doesn't mean it's not without the same sense of humour though; there are plenty of moments in the pilot when that particular Whedonverse wit shows through, particularly in the scene where Angel goes all action man and jumps into the wrong car or Doyle unable to smash open the gates. His first meeting with Cordelia is likewise amusing as she does the full Cordy spiel, but is undercut later when we get a brief glimpse into how awful her life currently is. That said, Miss Chase isn't taken down by something like not succeeding and she even gets to figure out pretty quickly that Russell the bad guy is in possession of sharp, pointy teeth. Let's face it, there are many scary things in the Buffyverse. Cordelia is still one of them.
City Of works hard to establish Angel as a different beast to its Slayer-based older sister and though it's going to be a while before it succeeds wholly in that regard, the new Angel gets to be meaner, leaner and broodier. What more could we want?
Quote of the Week:
Cordelia: I finally get invited to a nice place with no mirrors and lots of curtains... Hey! You're a vampire!
Russell: What? No, I'm not."
Cordelia: Are too!
Russell: I don't know what you're talking about.
Cordelia: I'm from Sunnydale. We had our own Hellmouth. I think I know a vampire when... I'm alone with him in his fortress-like home...
Let's Get Trivial: The first draft of the episode featured Whistler, the demon from Angel's past seen in Becoming, in Doyle's role as mentor.
Inventive Kill: That would be Angel kicking Russell Winters out of a very high window so he bursts into flames on the way down.
LA Who's Who: One of those vampires that Angel takes out in the beginning is none other than Lost's Josh Holloway.
The Sunnydale Connection: This episode reveals that the silent phone call Buffy receives at home in The Freshman is from Angel.