A Good Addition to the Buffyverse
The vampire had a soul. That he looked like a GQ model was simply an annoyance. The issue that shocked most horror fans was when Joss Whedon created tormented vampire Angel/Angelus with a soul. Horror fans have typically positioned vampires as soulless creatures that lose touch with their human side after each unspeakable act. Eventually the vampire loses all shreds of humanity and is carried away by his bestial side.
Angel, played by David Boreanaz with a constant brooding, pouty expression, was doomed to gain a soul and conscience after Angelus and his marauding band attacked a Gypsy encampment. After a Gypsy cursed him, Angelus morphed into Angel, the Friendly Vampire. The self-awareness that came after decades of angst (which viewers were mostly spared from seeing) compelled Angel to befriend humans, fight evil and even destroy other vampires — acts that would cause other vampires to hunt him as well.
Whedon must not have realized the power he unleashed when he cast pin-up boy Boreanaz as Sarah Michelle Gellar’s forbidden love interest in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Angel’s presence on the show is one of its most significant departures from the original, dreadful movie starring Kristy Swanson and Donald Sutherland.
Despite his on-again/off-again relationship with Buffy and a major story arc that went against all major works previously written with vampiric characters, Angel became one of TV’s hottest characters and was quickly spun-off into his own series. Smart television producers (just ask Norman Lear) used to spin-off a series when the original was at the height of popularity. There are exceptions, of course, but for every show like Frasier that becomes a hit, there are many more AfterMASHs.
To help ease fans with the transition into a new detective procedural mixed with the supernatural, Whedon brought Charisma Carpenter from Buffy as Cordelia, and shortly after, Alexis Denisof, reprising Wesley Wyndham-Pryce. In just a few short episodes, Denisof transitions from comic foil to fighting sidekick, and by the series’ end, a heroic figure reminiscent of Indiana Jones. Perhaps Denisof’s real-life marriage to Buffy co-star Alyson Hannigan emboldened his character and allowed him to morph into a masterful magic user and street fighter equally at home with Shakespeare or gutting a demon.
The mashup, which later included other Buffy alums including fan favorite James Marsters as Spike, worked. Angel initially developed a working relationship with the police, but the show soon veered toward a supernatural series with only a hint of the detective archetype. The bad guys quickly became a law firm that practiced dark arts and manipulated the economy, the Villain of the Week and sometimes the mysterious Powers That Be.
Angel was a smash as a show, easily pushing past the 100 episodes typically needed for syndication and enjoying a five-year run. The show’s producers constantly introduced new characters, broadened plots and moved from what was essentially a show with a single main character and two sidekicks to an ensemble.
By the series end, the writing team, which had even managed to introduce a live birth from a union of two undead creatures, seemed to lose sight of the show’s original gritty beginnings, and each episode grew more grandiose yet with conflict on a comic book cosmic scale. rather than the mean-streets feel Angel originally used to great success.
Canceled with a short warning, several have expressed interest in an Angel movie at various times. Whedon seems to have fully closed the Buffyverse book, however, leaving Angel and pals to live on in novels and fanzines.