Seeing What Sticks in Season One
June 24th, 2010
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If Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s first season was demonized adolescence, then Angel’s first season is very much a demonized take on the struggles facing twenty-somethings (or two-hundred-and-twenty-somethings) as they negotiate life on their own. As Angel continues to search for its identity as a series, it largely presents situations which tap into Angel’s primary characterization: loneliness defines who Angel is, especially after having left Buffy behind, and so he logically meets people and associates with people who are, to some degree, like him.
I spent some time on Twitter discussing how much these episodes remind me of a supernatural Burn Notice, and this inherent loneliness is part of it. On that (quite good) show, for those Buffy fans who don’t have a penchant for USA Network series, Michael Westen is a former CIA agent who is “burned,” blacklisted and dropped in his former hometown to fend for himself. He reconnects with two former associates (one male, one female, who play comic relief to his straight man) who are themselves lone wolves, and together they form a strong team dynamic which is nonetheless fed by each character’s loneliness (as they have nothing else to go home to, so why not dole out some vigilante justice?). Michael, like Angel, does have a past: his family is still in Miami, but he cut them out of his life a long time previous, and a lot of the show is Michael helping others and connecting with them in part to redeem himself for some of the things he did in the past.
My point isn’t to suggest that Angel and Burn Notice are the same series, but rather that there is something distinctly human about Angel’s first season to this point. While Buffy’s first season felt like it was having fun with high school cliches, Angel feels like it’s applying the supernatural to the “real world,” free from the liminal space of higher education and able to look a bit deeper at parts of life that Buffy hasn’t been able to touch, free to escape the confines of one space to try various different types of storylines in its search for its own identity.
The result is a show that I would very much want to watch, if not yet a great show worthy of intense discussion.