Cultural Catchup Project: When One Door Closes… (Angel)

When One Door Closes…

June 29th, 2010

You can follow along with the Cultural Catchup Project by following me on Twitter (@Memles), by subscribing to the category’s feed, or by bookmarking the Cultural Catchup Project page where I’ll be posting a link to each installment.

There’s been some concern in the comments as of late about how much I’m being spoiled by their contents, which is a legitimate concern that I’ve sort of accepted as the cost of doing business. I certainly appreciate those who avoid spoilers, but I also don’t begrudge those who can’t contain themselves and reveal something small from the future. In some cases, you’re simply being reassuring or helpful: it is technically a spoiler that, for example, Wesley and Cordelia’s character arcs would be continuing on Angel, but it’s not as if the real value of those character arcs comes from the surprise of their appearance. Knowing that fact does not take away the impact of each character becoming part of a different series, but rather puts that seed into my mind for the future.

The one legitimate spoiler I’ve had in regards to Angel arrived far sooner than I expected it to: while a certain Twitter compatriot to remain unnamed mistakenly spoiled the central event in “Hero,” I had no context for when that event was going to arrive, and so I sort of presumed that it was a spoiler for a much later period in the series rather than the midway point of its first season. Yes, I would have been much more viscerally shocked had this closed door come as a complete surprise, but since I didn’t know when it was coming its impact on the narrative remains quite the same. If “I Will Remember You” closed the door on any hope of Buffy and Angel truly reconciling, then “Hero” closes the door on the notion that Los Angeles will be any less dark than Sunnydale.

Although, strangely though, the door that opens is awfully familiar for those who’ve spent time around southern California’s Hellmouth.

Doyle’s death was not entirely a shock to me, even not knowing that it would be taking place in “Hero”: the episode focuses a lot on Doyle’s past, and sets up an ominous (and laughably Nazi-like) group of pureblooded demons who are set on killing half-breeds. It doesn’t take an Empath Demon to get the feeling that Doyle may not be long for this world, and when you combine that with some movement on the Doyle/Cordelia front I got the signals that we were heading towards Doyle’s tragic end before it really became a tragedy. Don’t get me wrong: I was sad to see Doyle leave, and his noble death is not without resonance. However, it’s not as if we had spent seasons with Doyle, or that he and Cordelia had struck up a substantial relationship, or that the character has truly become a part of the series. The show is still sort of finding itself, and so Doyle’s loss is more part of its natural evolution than a sudden roadblock it has no way of confronting.

The episode’s problem is that the Scourge are too anvil-like by half: it’s one thing to introduce a group of half-breed demons who Doyle can empathize with, and the flashback to Doyle’s own experience with the Scourge sold them as something terrifying and added some interesting backstory to Doyle’s interactions with his Demon half. However, once the Scourge emerge they’re the world’s most obvious Nazi parallel, right down to the uniforms. The makeup is interesting, but any of the menace they might have created on their own is replaced by the reenactment of the Kristallnacht on a backlot street and the introduction of a weapon which could wipe out only those with human blood. The episode didn’t need those connections to be successful: the Scourge could hunt half-breeds without being Nazis, and Doyle could have sacrificed himself without the need to establish what threat the device represented. It’s all about execution, at the end of the day: while having Doyle die a noble death is always going to seem a little bit sudden and manipulative, the way it plays out highlights the least successful qualities. That quiet moment of Angel and Cordelia watching Doyle’s stilted commercial tape back is a great bookend, his words taking on new meaning considering his death, but what came before it was so heavy-handed that it all seems a bit mawkish.

However, as Angel is told by the oracles (who are also a bit heavy-handed), when one door closes another door opens. And while they were mostly talking about Doyle’s decision to (perhaps inadvertently) transfer his Seeing Eye to Cordelia, it goes for the series as well: a week after killing Doyle, Wesley Wyndam-Pryce arrives on a motorcycle as a Rogue Demon Hunter, a development which I appreciate and yet which in some ways feels strange. On the one hand, “Parting Gifts” is a welcome return for a character I quite enjoyed on Buffy and who isn’t identical to Doyle in terms of replacing him: Wesley is knowledgeable where Doyle was resourceful, weak where Doyle was strong, qualities which create a different dynamic with Cordelia and Angel than did Doyle. If we accept that Angel is a lone wolf, then Doyle was in some ways too much the Robin to his Batman: while Angel needs a team to work around him, having someone quite as able as Doyle assisting him in some ways made life too easy for Angel. Wesley, by comparison, is weak enough in a fight that he’ll be saving the girl before he’s fighting the demons, a quality which gives Angel support without giving him a partner.

My concern with this development is that while Wesley in some ways stresses Angel’s isolation, his presence can’t help but reestablish the connection between this series and its predecessor that “I Will Remember You” sort of erased. I don’t think that Wesley carries too much baggage from his previous series, as he has no remaining connections to that world and his primary connection (Cordelia) is now part of this one, but it does seem strange for Wesley to just sort of jump over. Part of what made Doyle so interesting was how he was himself half-demon, and he offered a glimpse into a side of the world that we hadn’t really seen on Buffy and which felt like it had a great deal more potential. While Wesley is perhaps more functional, speaking various dialects and with a wealth of knowledge of demon-related activities, Doyle was more inherently interesting: I like Wesley, and I am excited to see how Wesley evolves from his time on Buffy, but I do think that bringing in a character whose value is somewhat dependent on having seen the start of his story on Buffy seems like a strange scenario where someone very much of Angel’s world is replaced by someone who is part of a different past.

“Parting Gifts,” though, initially does a nice job of allowing Doyle’s death to linger: while his act of sacrifice may have been played out too broadly, grief is a strongsuit for both Buffy and Angel as series, and so seeing its impact on Angel (now weary to take on another partner after Doyle’s death) and Cordelia (wracked with guilt while trying to audition for her commercial) is much more subtle, although only relatively speaking in Cordelia’s case (the commercial went a bit over the top). And yet there’s something strange that the show mostly goes on like normal, Wesley jumping into the case and Wolfram & Hart showing up at the auction to try to acquire Cordelia’s eyes: by the time we get to “Somnambulist” Doyle’s memory is more or less gone, as the show brings Kate back to the forefront and digs into Angel’s past with Wesley along for the ride. Yes, a new door has been opened in some respects, but what awaited on the other side was more or less the exact same series except without Doyle, which doesn’t seem as meaningful as it could have been (in fact, a note on Wikipedia notes that Tim Minear completed a draft of “Somnambulist” with Doyle still alive, so it really wasn’t planned out).

I don’t blame Whedon and Greenwalt for killing Doyle: I think it increases the stakes of the series’ world, gives Cordelia a bit more depth, and even brings the notion of atonement for one’s sins into the picture (thus raising the question about whether Angel will at some point have to commit a similar act of atonement). However, “Hero” itself is too heavy-handed as an hour of television, and the transition to Wesley is enjoyable from a personal perspective (in that I am glad to see the character back on my television) but doesn’t really seem to turn Doyle’s death into any sort of momentum for the series. Perhaps it’s an accomplishment that the series doesn’t feel as if it has gone off the rails with Doyle’s death, and that it’s still moving along at a similar pace, but that’s actually quite damning to the impact that Doyle’s death was supposed to have. It’s possible that my previous knowledge of Doyle’s impending doom, plus the fact I was able to pop in another episode of the show twelve hours later as opposed to the following week, means that I didn’t feel the impact of Doyle’s death as strongly as others, but I feel as if the series doesn’t do as much with this transition as they could have, making it seem less purposeful and more incidental than I would think they intended.

Cultural Observations

  • On the one hand, “Somnambulist” has Oscar-nominated actor Jeremy Renner playing a vampire serial killer who Angel trained and who doesn’t understand Angel’s new appreciation for humanity, a storyline that resonates quite nicely and features a strong performance from Renner; on the other hand, the episode also features more with Elisabeth Rohm’s Kate, including a “Look, my serial killer profile describes Angel, isn’t that spooky!” sequence that made me wretch. I get that the show wanted to play up the fear of Angel turning to the dark side, but that sequence felt obnoxiously contrived, and kept me from taking Kate’s new knowledge of vampire culture at face value. It’s not a terrible development, but nothing all that interesting comes out of it, and this one’s only of value for seeing a future Oscar-nominee vamp it up.
  • I guess the closest that Buffy has had, up to this point, to compare with Doyle’s death was Ms. Calendar, although Jenny’s death was even more complicated since Angel was actually the one who killed her and all.
  • Cordelia trying to kiss away her seeing ability was a pretty simple gag, but I enjoy the added subtext it had when it came to Cordelia’s kiss with Wesley – it’s one of those circumstances where having knowledge of Buffy is almost necessary to get the joke in question, which isn’t something the show has really done up to this point outside of legit crossovers.
  • I hadn’t read much about Glenn Quinn ahead of time, but his is really quite a tragic story considering his heroin overdose in 2002 – I also had no idea he was on Roseanne, another circumstance where my age keeps me from having certain comparisons. I presume, and IMDB confirms, that I’ll be seeing a “In Memory of” card on a future episode.
  • I personally noticed the weird exchange of glowy stuff in “Hero,” although I didn’t guess its significance.
  • EDIT: Forgot to mention this as I got further into the review – huge props to the commenters for being so coy around Doyle’s death. You really had me fooled with the way that many hinted at Doyle’s future with a “Just wait and see how interesting it gets,” which I presumed to mean he was sticking around for a long time as opposed to a short while. Well played.
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68 Comments

Filed under Cultural Catchup Project

68 responses to “Cultural Catchup Project: When One Door Closes… (Angel)

  1. KateT

    Re: Wesley.

    I think the best real reason he crossed over from BTVS to ATS is that Joss Whedon loves Alexis Denisof. For my part, having seen all of ATS, I often forget that Wesley started on BTVS, since his role on ATS is utterly indispensable.

    If I ever have a band, I will name it “The Scourge Emerge.”

    • Agreed. (About Wes, not the band name. My imaginary band will be called Medicinal Carrots.)

      Myles described Wesley as “a character whose value is somewhat dependent on having seen the start of his story on Buffy,” and while I suppose that might be true right this second…… well, by the time you get to the end of AtS, the fact that he was on Buffy becomes (almost!) irrelevant.

      • Yes – I didn’t meant to insinuate that it will ALWAYS remain that way, but it certainly is that way now, which is what I consider slightly problematic. I’m sure that will fade away later, though, I have no doubt about that.

        • fivexfive

          I was watching both shows as they aired by this time, and yeah, I felt the same way about these episodes. I thought the impact of Doyle’s death was done very well (especially since how it changed Cordelia made me like her for the first time), but the death itself, while moving, followed by the arrival of Wesley seemed to make his character almost a throw-off, like Jesse in the first episode of Buffy who was never mentioned again. I don’t remember if they talk about him or not in the rest of the series, but that’s how I felt at the time. I really like pretty much all of AtS, but a big part of me wishes they kept Doyle on longer. He was one of my favorite characters.

        • Back at the time this first aired, a lot of fandom was up in arms complaining about how Wesley was going to, “ruin the show.” They hated the character after his run in season 3 of Buffy.

          I am enjoying your refreshing lack of retrospect in these reviews, because it does revisit more what it was like watching both series as they first aired.

          • Susan

            Avoiding spoilers, I’ll just say that there are occasional references to Doyle in one way or another in the future, at least one that’s pretty substantial.

      • Tausif Khan

        I had never seen Buffy before I had watched Angel. I knew nothing of Wesley’s character I just assumed they brought some one in to replace the hole in the cast. He definitely grew on me. Whedon has said it is the best character arc he has ever written.

        In Whedon’s discussion of Doyle’s death he compared it to that of Jessie. He always wanted to have some one in the main credits he people thought was untouchable and then wanted to kill him off.

        Whedon had talked to Alexis Denisof before the end of “Graduation Day” and asked him if he liked to keep on playing Wesley. The original plans were to have him killed off. When they both agreed that they liked Wesley Whedon offered him a part on Angel.

        Myles you were definitely right about the kiss (only got the full meaning when I saw Buffy).

    • Beth

      Well MY imaginary band is El Diablo Robotico. 😀

  2. What a shame! I really thought you were unspoiled for Doyle’s death, and I was so pleased!

    Yes, the Scourge sucks on pretty much every level, which is a(nother) shame, because otherwise, Doyle’s sacrifice is wonderful and heartbreaking and all kinds of good tv.

    My understanding (IIRC Joss said this in the commentary for, of all things, Welcome to the Hellmouth) is that Doyle was meant to be the Jesse on Angel — which is why I found it so interesting and amusing that you said Tina was the Jesse figure. He wanted to put Jesse in the credits for the opening episode, just so that no one would believe the character would actually die. They didn’t have enough money to do it, and Joss says something like, “So then I did it four years later on Angel, and look! Everybody hated it!” (Becker may have more insight on this.)

    Sigh. I love Doyle, and his all-too-brief little arc. I cried the first time through — not at the end of Hero, but when I started Parting Gifts immediately afterwards and realised that he was actually dead for good.

    When you watch A1 a second time, it plays better, because you already know that Doyle is temporary, and that Wesley will soon take his place, and that Cordelia will inherit the visions. It must feel unbelievably clunky the first time around — here’s a new show, struggling to figure out its three-person dynamic, and before we begin to feel comfortable with the setup we have to start all over again.

    p.s.: Cordelia isn’t wracked with guilt during the audition — she’s having the vision of the big grey blobby thing.

    • Well then, we fooled one another: as I’ve edited to reflect, the commenters were very good about keeping me in the dark, and I was very good about pretending I didn’t know Doyle was going to die at some point.

      As for the audition, I think there’s two separate reactions: the opening crying/emotion is, to me, a logical inability to be cheery so soon after Doyle’s death, while the vision is separate and compounding as opposed to the previous emotion being a precursor to that event. But, that was just my read of the scene.

    • Becker

      I leave the reasons why Doyle was written out to Joss and David Greenwalt to talk about. I do know that they did feel it was for the best for the show. I heartily was against the bringing in of Wesley as I had no idea how they were going to bring in the bumbling fool and make him fit in with the darker tone of the show. I was quickly proven wrong on that one and later he became one of the only watchable parts of the show during a period I will not talk about at this time. Very glad to have been wrong there.

      As I had noted in the last thread, many of the episodes were written during the summer before the order of the episodes had be worked out. The fact that the show was mainly a procedural (though a quirky one) made that possible. So many of the later episodes were written with Doyle in them as he might have actually ended up in them. The changes in the scripts to deal with the different characters in the role ended up not being that big of a deal.

      I’m very glad Myles wasn’t bothered too much by Doyle’s death as a lot of people got really angry about it. We got some angry letters. One got featured in a bit Alyson Beatrice’s book “Will the Vampire People Please Leave the Lobby” featuring the immortal line “Mr. Greenwalt, if that’s your real name….”

      I hated the Nazis. I actually came up with an alternate story idea and mentioned it to Tim Minear who made me pitch it to Howard Gordon (who was the primary writer of the ep) and where I promptly mangled my version as I had just come up with it and was kinda freaked out. I think mine was a much better story, but it did not have a heroic send off for Doyle which is what Joss wanted. It also would have caused issues with episodes that were written afterwards, so I can’t get into the plot.

      I had no idea who Jeremy Renner was at the time. But I gt to meet another actor when I delivered him a copy of the script. I can’t remember why it didn’t work out, but Penn might have been played by Anthony Michael Hall if things worked out.

      Oh, random other note. I wasn’t on the set for this bit, but was home on The Bronze when the “cause” happened. Ty King (writer of Some Assembly and Passion) was briefly addicted to The Bronze and posted there every single day for hours at a time for a while, but then took some time off. He would appear form time to time and he and Joss would just miss each other. Someone joked that if Ty and Joss both posted at the same time, an earthquake would happen. They did, and an earthquake happened. During the earthquake, they were filming the interior boat scenes in the basement of the old LA Tribune (or some other ex-newspaper) building in Downtown. Everything is rocking and they briefly keep filming forgetting that they are not on a real boat. Once someone remembered, they all got out. Luckily, no lights feel and no one got hurt, but the brief bit about forgetting the boat wasn’t actually a boat always makes me laugh.

      Final random note: Hero killed two people with the giant Christmas ornament (we actually hung that above the tree on set for Christmas) and both technically played the same role. “First Mate” Ashley Taylor was the Doyle stand in, though after buying platform shoes, he got to stay as the Wesley stand-in.

  3. AO

    Sorry to hear that you were spoiled on Doyle’s death, Myles. I do my best to avoid saying anything that might give away future events, but sometimes we can all slip. And we commentors even give out info when we reveal what doesn’t happen. Hopefully we’ll all try that much harder to police ourselves.

    I’d very much agree that “Hero” was heavy-handed, which is unfortunate, but as has been said before, the show will definitely improve in that department. I don’t know if it was the heavy-handedness, the fact that I never saw much to like about Doyle, or both, but I wasn’t at all bothered by his death.

    I can definitely understand your concerns that Doyle brought a unique perspective to the cast by being half-demon, and in response all that I can say is to please keep watching (though I know that there is no actual danger of you stopping). Not that the show will necessarily bring another half-demon character to the fore, but that you absolutely will see other unique characters appear with interesting perspectives. That is one of the strengths of both shows imo, that they begin with very small casts, and gradually build on them in an organic way.

  4. Huh, I pretty much agree on everything this time around, although I will say that I think “Somnambulist” is one of S1’s better episodes — I liked it a bit more than you. I completely agree with your pros/cons in regard to “Hero” though. I first saw the episode unspoiled and was really shocked by Doyle’s early death. It was a surprisingly emotional moment in an otherwise mediocre-at-best episode.

    I’m really looking forward to your take on the next couple Buffy episodes. 🙂

  5. Witnessaria

    I have to agree that I loved the idea of Hero more than its execution. Doyle’s death is important to the series, but it hits me more in retrospect than it did the first or second time through.

    For me personally, Angel Investigations really starts to coalesce when Wesley joins the team, and it just gets better and better. Maybe you just need a Watcher. I hadn’t considered the implications for connecting back with Buffy after moving away from it in IWRY. But there’s still a necessary connection between the two shows at this point so I don’t think there’s any detriment. Angel survives on its own merit with its own mission, but never disavows its origins either, which I think is good.

  6. greg

    I’m never gonna be a big fan of ‘Hero’, myself. It just seems to lack all the subtlety and wit I usually admire in Mutant Enemy productions. Plus, I just can’t believe that the Scourge would let a half-breed vampire anywhere near them, just as I can’t believe that Angel’s crew would just let the Scourge get away with the ability to build another human-destroying machine and not bother to do anything about it. (No spoiler; it’s really just dropped as an issue. Would have been nice if even Wolfram & Hart took care of the problem but; no. Once the episode’s over it’s just forgotten.)

    It’s such a shame there couldn’t have been some overlap between Doyle’s leaving and Wesley’s entering. Those two becoming friends (even temporarily) would have made for a nice dynamic. (and; yes, I do realize that I’m entering a potential spoiler area so I’ll just stop right now)

    • Becker

      I never even thought about it. RE: the Scourge. They definitely couldn’t deal with it in that episode and afterwards I think it just would have gotten in the way. I’m actually not sure if I have ever heard this argument before so I doubt any of the writers thought about it. Also, as much of an anvil as they were, the less thought about them, the better. 😉

      • greg

        I just think it would have been so cool to have had a scene (possibly in ‘Parting Gifts’?) where we see the Scourge, portrayed as the most powerful evil demonic force around, about to activate another “kill all humans!” machine (cause, really; why the frilly heck wouldn’t they?), only to have Wolfram & Hart operatives casually dispose of them all, as though it was no big thing. It would have been a nice way of showing just how powerful a threat W&H really are (and how they don’t have any patience with anyone interfering in their concerns), much as having a huge claw monster cowering in fear from the gaze of a substitute teacher is a nifty piece of shorthand to let the audience ponder who’s really scary.

        And, while the immediate threat is forgotten, the Scourge aren’t. There’s a season three scene where the gang are making a list on a blackboard of who might be the threat du jour and the Scourge are on there, considered as a possibility, so somebody remembered not to forget them.

        • Ha, I would have *loved* a little W&H moment where they casually take out the Scourge.

          My friends and I started watching Angel when we were all in law school, specifically because we heard there were evil lawyers. “Evil lawyers? Awesome!!!”

          • diane

            When I went to the Slayage 2 conference 4 years ago, one session was a lawyer who talked about using Wolfram & Hart to teach her course in contract law.

        • Becker

          While I agree, enough so that W&H taking an active role in Doyle’s death was part of my story, but I think that would have altered the dynamic of the way W&H has been presented to this point and in the future. I can’t explain further without spoilers.

  7. Karen

    Excellent review. I always want to like heroes more than I actually do, and you outline the episodes strengths and weaknesses well.

    Wesley’s arc is my favorite of all the Buffyverse, despite the fact that Wes is not my favorite character.

  8. Nicole

    You’re reviewing the episodes so fast! I love it.
    You always have an interesting point of view. I hope I’m not spoiling when I say that I believe that Joss Whedon said at one point that Wesley’s arc was the one he liked the best. Though I adored Doyle as well, and it makes it so much sadder that Glenn Quinn also passed away. I also hope I’m not spoiling when I say that even though it seems as though the characters *forget* about Doyle pretty fast, the show does *bring him back* a few times, as in, acknowledging that he was once on the show and he died and all that stuff.
    Sorry, I’m not as articulate as all you other smart people, but I just wanted to say that I really enjoy reading your reviews. Also, have you seen any of Whedon’s other works? Dollhouse, Firefly, etc?

    • There’s a collection of Dollhouse reviews here on the site (Check the Category Search Dropdown on the right hand side of the page), and I have seen Firefly but did so before I started writing about TV, so I don’t think there’s anything on the site.

      Thanks for the kind words, and for sharing your thoughts!

  9. And thus begins one of the greatest character arcs in television history. Not with a bang, but with a whimper.

  10. Eric

    I always assumed that the Nazi’s were copying the Scourge, or that the Scourge were a deliberately neo-Nazi group, rather than being an incredibly blunt metaphor.

    • I guess that would be the generous way to look at it 🙂 I always assumed the Nazi uniforms were really cheap to rent that week.

      • Eric

        Being a fan of Gordon R Dickson’s Childe Cycle (the Dorsai books), the Scourge has always had a flavor of the Friendlies/Marching Societies, with a heavy dose of Nazi thrown in for me. Sure, they’re one-dimensional and monochromatic to beat, but the short-hand is less horrendous if we assume the Scourge was deliberately invoking the Nazi trope, rather than that the writers were criminally lazy. 😉

  11. Denita

    I loved “Somnambulist”. Elisabeth Rohm’s Kate didn’t interest me as a character until this episode.

  12. Alex

    I suppose I’m the only one in the world that didn’t like Doyle. The series is just so much better without him. Rewatching these old episodes is tough for me, I can’t explain why…it just feels so unbalanced. We already have a lone wolf, broody guy looking for redemption on the show…having Doyle there too is just repetitive.

    • Becker

      Just from going through here, you aren’t the only one. But I never really saw too much of a similarity between Doyle and Angel other than being loners, but to an extent so are all the main characters on Angel. It’s what makes them work together (and not work together when called for). But Doyle, not so much for the broody, more with the boozy. I ignore that both characters are Irish as only Glenn can actually do the accent.

      As far as unbalanced, well the quality of the episodes bounces back and forth. Tough I always say I think S1 is fantastic, it’s not that great as a whole, but has fantastic episodes scattered throughout.

    • Susan

      I agree with you, basically. I think Doyle is no big deal. I don’t dislike him, but I never really connected with his character and was surprised but not especially struck by his death (in an episode that is underwhelming in every way–ugh).

      I generally skip Hero in my rotation. The Scourge is almost inexcusably bad storytelling, imo.

      In fact, since I never felt that the group had completely cohered with Doyle, I never really bought their grief over his passing and am just as happy that his memory is set aside pretty quickly.

  13. Alex

    I won’t argue much if anybody were to point out how wrong I am on the details. All I can say is I’ve watched the entire Angel series 3 or 4 times over and it’s just a complete drag for me with the Doyle episodes. Maybe it’s because I’m so looking forward to what lies ahead and I’m unfairly bashing Doyle. I’m just spitballing here.

    • If Doyle doesn’t click with you as a character, then that’s perfectly fair to say.

      Personally, I find those episodes to be a drag in spite of having Doyle there. It’s just a chore to get through all of A1 (with the exception of the upcoming two-parter) when there’s so much awesomeness in upcoming seasons.

      • I don’t know. I mean, A1 does drag in places but it has a decent number of good episodes in the mix. So more of a “mixed bag” than a “chore” for me. A2 is no doubt a lot better, but A3’s so boring and A4’s so troubled that A1 doesn’t look so bad in relation anymore. The first time I saw the series I felt that A1 was easily the weakest season, but on re-watches A1 has inched above A3 and maybe even A4. A2 and A5 is where the more prolonged great stuff is at. A3 and A4, like A1, only have brief moments of greatness in them. *Minor Spoiler* If it wasn’t for Wesley, I’m not even sure if I would even want to watch A3/A4 again — except for stopping on an episode here or there.

        • Becker

          I would say 2, 1, 5, 3, 4, with 3 being close to 2 until the spoilers that will not be named kicked in. And not long after that is when Wes became the only watchable character for me, knocking it down that far. I can’t even watch most of S4.

          • Nicole

            Eugh I hate Season Four. I fast forwarded through most of it.

          • fivexfive

            I always liked Season 1 and 5 of Angel best. I really like how it started out, and I may be the only one, but I also enjoyed the proceduralness of it. But then Season 5 came along and it was like, BAM!

        • Beth

          Oh man, with the exception of the J arc, S4 is great! I think because that arc occurred at the end of the season, I initially didn’t like S4, but I have since found it to be very engrossing (up to that point). Do I like what happens to some characters? No, but I dig it. 🙂 S5 is my favorite, though.

          • greg

            Season four is hands-down my favorite. I get why some people have a problem with it, and I can kinda almost agree, to a point, But what seems to bother others pales significantly in comparison to a> a big bad that’s as great as the Mayor on Buffy and b> a continuous story arc (17 of the 22 episodes!) that’s a monumental and ambitious as anything else I’ve ever seen on TV. Season four of ‘Angel’ is like ‘The Wire’, but with a richer backstory to draw from. I have some minor nitpicky things to compain about (heck, what fun would a show be without that?) but the scope of the story they’re telling I find to be brilliant. There’s pretty much no episode of this that I can watch without NEEDING to watch the one after it, and the one after that until I realize the sun’s just come up.

          • I love 3 and 4. I totally understand why some people don’t enjoy those seasons, but I actually do like ALL the characters.

            I had a huge problem with the basic premise of 5, and I resented it for the first half of the season. Someone should have just told me that that really was going to be the situation for the rest of the show. I liked it better on subsequent viewings, but the premise still bugs me.

          • skittledog

            Yup, seasons 3 and 4 are my favourite of Angel (and by extension, amongst my top tv ever). There are patchy moments in both, but they have one of the best arcs ever, my favourite characters doing my favourite awful and unforgiveable things, and they just have this sort of… mission statement about them. I couldn’t even tell you what the statement is (other than it’s probably all about pain), but it feels like Angel finally finds its heart as a show.

            For me. I know, there’s these people who think season 5 is the best. Or season 2. I ignore them as best I can. 😉

            (For the record, I like season 1 a lot too. Patchy, but heartfelt and somehow warmer than the other seasons. I think it might be the intimacy of the set.)

      • Becker

        I actually stopped watching Angel most of the way through S4 as I just couldn’t watch it. In pretty much any other situation, I despise the concept of the premise for S5, but I was actually really hoping they would do what they did and was so happy they did it and was able to come back to watching the show. I look forward to when he gets to them so I can attempt to explain what my major huge issues are.

        • Becker

          Greg, Voluntarymanslaughter & Skittledog, I wish I could explain it now, but it would involve spoilers. Too much in S4 happens that never should have happened due to the complete destruction/rewriting of characters and their histories and the whole point of other seasons. I blame it on Joss & Tim heading off to Firefly and Greenwalt leaving entirely for Miracles, with Joss not coming back until it was too late and then having to do what they did to make the show be able to have an S5 at all. There wasn’t a single full time writer from S2 still around come S4. All I can do now is throw around complete vagueness but I will get a lot more specific when I am able to.

          • skittledog

            Hmm. Now I’m intrigued, dammit, and have to wait. 🙂 On the other hand… I think I’ve discussed s4 to death so many times that you’re probably unlikely to change my mind on it, but I’d be interested to know your specific issues.

            Note, I’m not saying s4 is perfect. There is one character where I really, truly hate what was done with them and feel it was completely misguided and an awful idea, yes. There is one character that really annoys me. Being as those two characters often have scenes together, I tend to skip them on rewatching and thus forget the annoyance. But everything else… is nearly perfect, for me.

            *redacts whole paragraph she just typed* I’m verging too close to spoilerdom. But seasons 3 and 4 sucked me in and left me an emotional wreck, in all the best sorts of Whedony ways. My favourite character had the meat of their arc, Angel made some of the toughest decisions he ever had to make, and the scale of the story became intensely personal and yet universal simultaneously.

            But I’m well aware of how divisive it is as a season, and I guess we’ll deal with it when we (or, er, Myles) get there…

          • I hear you, Becker, and I understand why some people feel that way. I just go along for the ride and thoroughly enjoy it. But I’m sure things would have gone very differently if Joss had been at the helm.

          • “Going along for the ride” works the first time through a season. But, imo, a season that’s worth its stuff should be able to stand up to re-watches. A3 and S4 are so plot-heavy (largely at the expense of character and heart) that they just don’t have much to offer beyond the first time you watch it. The character work in those seasons is sketchy at best for most of the characters. ‘You know who’ is the only consistent saving grace of two entire seasons. Sure there’s a handful of great episodes sprinkled in the mix, but there’s very little to think about outside of them.

            Being heavily serialized shouldn’t guarantee them the status of good television. I like serialization as much as the next TV viewer, but execution, themes, and especially character work have to back it up (imo, of course). That’s where I feel AtS had some real issues come S3/S4. B7 actually also suffered a bit from too heavy of a plot focus at the expense of character work, although I feel B7 is still a bit more on target with what it does focus on than A3/A4 are.

          • skittledog

            Again, I’m quite obviously just speaking for myself, but I’m pretty sure I’ve rewatched A4 more than any other season. And my favourite episode ever is 3×16, closely followed by 4×01. I’m not a plot person, I’m a character person – I couldn’t care less about the arc except for what it does to this little family I love so much.

            (But yes, my ‘little family’ mostly excludes the factor that would make me loathe s4, and did do ever since mid-s2 or so.)

  14. gio

    Just to put another perspective one Doyle being written off the series. The actor Glenn Quinn slept with David Boreanaz’ wife, that’s why he was written off the show. Not for story reasons but for real life reasons.

    • lyvvie

      I really don’t think this is true.

      Quinn and Boreanaz remained friends up until his death and David said he was ‘like a brother to me’.

    • Becker

      This isn’t even remotely true. One, it didn’t happen. Two, David wasn’t married at the time nor even with either wife.

  15. lyvvie

    I pretty much agree with all your assessments with these three episodes Myles. Parting Gifts is probably the strongest, but Hero does have a couple of great emotional moments (the ending with the video is wonderful). Somnambulist does seem to be widely liked but I find it pretty standard.

    One thing I always thought about the Scourge though was that we found out in Buffy S3 that all demons are part-human, could have been a much more interesting episode if they’d acknowledged that at some point.

    • Becker

      But I think the difference might have been more than just being a typical earth demon, but demons who had interbred with humans. Like Doyle was only half demon. At least, that is what I thought at the time.

  16. Eleanor (undeadgoat)

    Because I grew up without a television, the things I find most fascinating about TV narrative arcs are when they have to be adapted based upon circumstances. The character of Doyle not working out, for example, I believe I have heard was sort of realized as the season went along. I definitely really loved the character, though, and was sad to see him go. (Another example being the last few episodes of Angel Season 5, which is one giant “OH CRAP” moment.)

    Myles, may I ask how old you are? I tend to assume that everyone who has time to write on the internets is like 40, but you’ve been dropping hints that would put you much closer to my own age (early 20’s).

  17. Gill

    I’m glad Doyle’s death was a bit of a surprise for you. It’s sometimes a real struggle to avoid spoilers! The Scourge plot was incredibly clunky, but Doyle’s death still had power. As for Wesley, his arc is awesome beyond the guessing of it – and Denisof is an astounding actor. Angel itself is still very much finding its style at this point, though, and I think your criticisms are valid.

  18. BobT

    Myles, I thought for sure that you’d mention Sean Gunn’s small role in Hero in the the observations.

    Maybe you didn’t recognise him.

    • I recognized him, just slipped my mind considering the bigger issues at play.

      I’ll be sure to make note of his bizarre double casting when I get to “She.”

  19. Bob Kat

    Myles; Eek, I was about 30 when you were born! You’re younger than my boss!

    Seriously, I do like your take on all this, and, while Wesley eventually did soem things I’ll always hold against him, I never stopped liking him the way I (by the end of both series) actively disliked most of the other major characters.
    These epsidoes are fairly straight-forward so I don’t have lot to add.

    voluntarymanslaughter: How about Willow? Alexis and Aly would probably like that :-). Of course your spouse/future spouse will have some opinions, I know from experience :-).

    If GLenn Quinn were still alive, I’d probabl;y resurrect Doyle in my fanfics, sicne I sort of call them “Season 30.”

  20. Mel

    “Doyle was more inherently interesting: I like Wesley, and I am excited to see how Wesley evolves from his time on Buffy,”

    and you should be. I’ve said it before–best character arc in the ‘verse.

    “And yet there’s something strange that the show mostly goes on like normal,”
    that’s always been my experience post- death of someone I know. its baffling, but the world keeps turning, the birds keep singing, evil keeps doing evil things and Angel and the gang keep fighting it, regardless of who ‘the gang’ consists of.

  21. mister bob

    I only watched this series this past year, but being aware of the nature of Glenn Quin’s death 2 years later, i felt like maybe his drug use was a factor in having Doyle killed off. Maybe he wasn’t showing up on time or performing well anymore.

    I’ve read that they never intended Doyle to last long, but the way that season one just goes on without much change makes me think that may not be true, and that the following episodes were written with the thought that he would still be there.

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