Top Ten ANGEL Episodes

So now it’s ANGEL’s turn for a top 10. David Boreanaz has come a long way since he was “discovered” walking his dogs. The character of Angel has always been one of my favourites because first, I loved the mythic-ness of a vampire who loved a Slayer and second, well, David’s pretty easy on the eyes.

A lot has been said about the quality of his acting. I won’t really get into it much but I will say that I believe he’s worked hard to learn his craft and more often than not he surprises viewers by offering subtle layers to his performance that you don’t often catch on a first viewing. His work as Angel could have gotten him stereotyped forever as “broody, dark hero” but his work on BONES has helped him break free of that. Sometimes it’s hard for me to separate an actor from either their celebrity or their previous iconic characters (Tom Cruise will always be Tom Cruise no matter how well he acts) but Boreanaz is one of those that works for me and for that, I’m happy. And you know what? I never minded his Irish accent. At least he tried hard to be authentic (*cough* Kevin Costner in Robin Hood, Bleurgh! *Cough*)

Now if only James Marsters could break free from Spike…. But I digress.

Anyway on with the countdown. As before, these aren’t in preferential order, but just my favourites from Season 1-5.

10. In the Dark (Season 1)
There’s no way I could leave this episode off my list. The third episode of the season and features a crossover from BUFFY in which Spike tore up half of Sunnydale looking for the legendary Gem of Amara. Buffy has Oz bring to Angel in L.A. and Spike follows. He kidnaps Angel and has him tortured by Marcus (who looks remarkably like Dr. Green from ER.)

This ep has everything – the hilarious mocking of Angel by Spike, torture, angst, vampires on fire and finally a vampire who hasn’t seen the sunset in over 200 years being able to step into the light. It’s definitely a highlight of the first season.

9. Eternity (Season 1)
What happens to Angel if a desperate actress slips him a drug that simulates happiness? Well Angelus returns to torment her and Angel’s friends. I think I love this episode because of the final scene when Angel wakes up chained, cuffed and tied to his bed. They play it for comedy and it works, but underneath, there’s always that danger lurking for anyone who works closely with Angel – that their boss and friend could suddenly turn on them and rip them to shreds.

An actress who became famous playing an iconic television character now longs to shed that image and move on. But she is unable to because she can’t get work and her fans constantly want her to be who she was. Her agent tries to keep publicity going for her by hiring a stunt guy to “stalk” her. She encounters Angel when he saves her from being run over. Eventually she discovers he’s a vampire and the allure of eternal youth is too much for her. She drugs our guy and Angelus is allowed to surface synthetically.

This episode highlights the irresistability of becoming a vampire. To the actress, she was influenced by actors’ portrayals of mythic vamps (she mentions Gary Oldman who, of course, played Dracula) and without really thinking it through, she jumped at the chance to get Angel to turn her. Of course, what she would have done once people started noticing she wasn’t aging is anyone’s guess. But eternal youth and beauty was not meant to be for her and she, Cordy and Wesley paid a price for her stupidity. Even Angel had to pay a price for it when he woke up as himself to find he’d hurt his friends (or tried to.) More psychic baggage to carry.

8. The Trial (Season 2)
In the second season, much of the time was spent having Angel deal with his resurrected Sire. Evil law firm Wolfram & Hart raised her from the dead (she had been staked by Angel in the first season of BUFFY) and brought her back as human. Their goal was to push Angel along the path to the dark side by forcing him to turn Darla. There’s quite a story arc involved in the telling of this episode.

But Darla, as a human, is now dying of the original disease she had when she was turned the first time 400 years ago and Angel can either turn her and have her become a soulless monster like she was before, or find another way. At Caritas, Lorne directs Angel and Darla to The Trial. Angel must face three trials in order to give Darla a second chance. In fact, in the third trial, Angel is required to sacrifice his own life as a Champion to save Darla – but this was itself a test of his will, and when he agreed to do it, he passed.

Problem is, Darla is already living her second chance and the host of the Trials cannot save her. Back in her dingy hotel room, Angel comforts Darla as best he can. After watching what Angel would have done for her, she begins to accept her fate. Angel fought hard for Darla because in her, he saw a chance for his own redempotion. Her accepting her fate meant that perhaps one day, there would be hope for Angel. But that hope was cruelly dashed when lawyers from Wolfram & Hart arrived with Drusilla. Angel, incapacitated and unable to stop them, was forced to watch in horror as Drusilla turned Darla herself (her ‘grandmum’ in actuality as Drusilla was Angel’s childe.) That final scene was incredible, and pivotal as well because it’s this event that sends Angel spiralling into darkness.

7. Reprise (Season 2)
In this episode, we see Angel still on his own, cut off from his friends, trying to find a way to bring an end to Wolfram & Hart. The opportunity presents itself when he learns a Senior Partner is coming to town for a big review. But the upshot is that Angel learns, to his horror, that horror, that evil, that Wolfram & Hart is forever. That it is all around and in every person and always will be. The lawfirm from hell isn’t in it to win, they’re in it to ensure evil continues forever.

This realization brings Angel to his lowest point yet. Suddenly numb and uncaring and feeling a little, “what’s it all about” (to quote Lilah) Angel just gives up. And when Darla shows up, he uses her, not caring if sex with Darla will bring forth Angelus. What does it matter anymore, right? He just wants to stop the cold.

Again, this is a pivotal episode in Angel’s journey of redemption. Wolfram & Hart managed to suckerpunch Angel pretty good and his night with Darla was in fact the beginning of quite a huge chain of events that had repercussions into the rest of the series.

6. Forgiving (Season 3)
Ugh. This episode shocked the hell out of me at the end. Very scary and for that, it makes my list. To catch up since we’ve now jumped to Season 3, Angel and Darla’s night of perfect despair led to her getting pregnant. How can two vamps get pregnant? Well we don’t really find out until season 4. Suffice to say it was engineered to happen and once the child is born, Angel is cuter than a monkey with a puppy as he embraces fatherhood.

But Wesley has stumbled onto a terrible prohecy that says, ‘The Father will kill The Son.’ Believing Connor (Angel’s son) is in danger from his own father, Wes kidnaps the baby to save his life. But fate stepped in and a man bent on vengeance from Angel’s past has Wesley’s throat cut and he escapes with the child into a Hell dimension as Angel looks on, unable to stop him.

“Forgiving” focuses on Angel’s search for his son and Gunn and Fred search for Wesley while trying to understand what he did. During Angel’s quest he meets the demon responsible for the false prophecy Wesley believed was true and learns that Wesley was only trying to save is son.

It’s an amazing episode and as I said, the final scene between Wesley and Angel shocked and scared me.

5. Deep Down (Season 4)
“Deep Down” was a fantastic start to the fourth season. When we last left our beleagured vampire hero, he had been locked in a box and sunk to the ocean floor by his now teenage son who, having grown up in a Hell dimension by a man who taught him to hate his true father (Angel), it’s fair to say he has issues.

In “Deep Down,” things are all out of whack for the whole AI team. Wesley’s still being shunned for kidnapping Connor, Cordy’s missing (though the audience knows where she really is, but to the team, she went missing the same night Connor sunk Angel), and Fred and Gunn are trying to hold the business together while caring for Connor and searching for Angel. But Wesley’s the only one who knows where Angel is and is trolling the ocean floor trying to find the box. Meanwhile, Poor Angel is suffering from severe thirst and hallucinations in which he drinks Cordy’s blood and murders his son.

It’s quite a show and the smackdown Angel lays on Connor when he’s eventually raised and brought home is fantastic.

4. The Angelus Arc (Season 4)
I’m cheating a little bit here because I can’t pick from the episodes in the Angelus is Back arc. From “Awakenings” and “Soulless” to “Release” and “Orpheus” each episode just hit the right note for me (it doesn’t hurt that I *almost* prefer watching Angelus roam about than Angel… almost.) If I absolutely HAD to pick one from this 6 episode arc, I’d go with “Soulless.” Sean Astin actually directed this one and did a fabulous job for being a one-off director in the series. Here’s a long-ish clip from “Soulless” of Angelus taunting everyone while they try to get information out of him:

*shiver* So yeah, the release of Angelus to try and gain info on the Big Beastie terrorizing LA and Angelus’ subsequent release and capture by reformed Slayer Faith – man that was some good television and it’s Boreanaz’s (er, not sure how to make his name possessive and I’m too lazy to look it up) portrayal of Angelus in this series of episodes is what cemented my love for DB and his skills.

3. Destiny (Season 5)
Ahh the return of Spike in Season 5 made for an interesting dynamic in comparing and contrasting the two ensouled vampires.In Season 5, Angel and Co. have taken over the LA branch of Wolfram & Hart and the decision has been weighing heavily on Angel. Was it the right decision, are they really helping the helpless still or just playing right into the Senior Partner’s hands etc. And then what about Spike? Suddenly he’s corporeal again (having been brought back from being “flash fried in a pillar of fire saving the world” as a ghost doomed to haunt the law firm) and his very presence has seemingly thrown the world out of balance because he’s buggering up the prophecy that says the vampire with a soul will become human again after having averted the coming apocalypse.

Now there are two vampires with souls. Which one does the prohecy refer to? Only way to find out, according to a researcher at Wolfram & Hart is one of them must drink from the Cup of Perpetual Torment. Thus begins an epic battle between two Champions for the cup. Only for the first time in their long history together – Spike beat Angel. Spike seemingly wanted it more than Angel did.

Until the liquid held within the Cup turned out to be Mountain Dew. Whole thing was a hoax and an elaborate plan to make Angel begin to doubt himself and his destiny.

2. Smile Time (Season 5)
Ohhhh “Smile Time…” I’m not going to delve into the placement of this episode within the seasonal arc of the show but I will say that the metaphor of Angel being a puppet figuratively and literally is fantastic.

Kids all over LA are becoming victim to a weird “disease” that Fred decides to investigate. It turns out that demonic puppets have taken over a popular kids’ show and have been sucking the innocence out of their young viewers one at a time and storing them in a pod thing called the Nest Egg. When Angel goes to investigate the studio, he finds the Nest Egg but not before it emits a bright light, knocks Angel out and when he wakes up, he finds he’s a wee little puppet man.

For the record, I really want the Angel puppet prop replica 🙂 Dorky? Why yes, yes I am. It will go next to my replica of Frodo’s sword, Sting 🙂

1 1/2. Damage (Season 5)
Yes, I’m fudging a bit again. I couldn’t make this list without mentioning the cameo of one of my favourite characters from BUFFY – Andrew. He makes an appearance in this episode that’s endearing and funny and provides some much-needed humour against the seriousness of the story.

As fans of both BUFFY and ANGEL know, BUFFY ended with Willow using some major mojo to turn all potential slayers into actual slayers. The cool thing about “Damage” is how it shows the downside to that seemingly brilliant decision to bring down the First. One of those Potentials was psychologically damaged having been kidnapped and tortured as a child. When she was activated, the vivid dreams of the past Slayers that happen mixed with her very vivid memories of her torture at the hands of a madman.

When Spike and Angel try to track her down after she escapes from the mental ward, Spike pays a damn high price for going after her gung-ho without taking the time to figure out what’s wrong with her first.

1. A Hole in the World (Season 5)
So, if Cavemen and Astronauts got into a fight, who would win?
At first (or in my case, second and third) viewing, this debate at the start of the episode seems funny if a little bit irrelevant. I could not have been more wrong and I feel like a complete eejit for missing the deeper subtext of the argument. Read this review of the episode and you’ll understand what I mean. In fact, if you’ve got the time, I highly recommend this guy’s in-depth analysis of every single episode of Angel. It’s amazing.

The episode is about the death of Fred and birth of Illyria who took over Fred’s body. The gang try every possible avenue they have available to them to try and save Fred but they simply can’t. Watching the gang fight to save Fred (and resort to either Caveman or Astronaut logic depending on the situation) was just wonderful. I can’t watch her final scene with Wesley without getting teary.

And for anyone interested (I see a lot of searches turn up here from people looking for audio files from Buffy or Angel) I made an MP3 of the Cavemen vs. Astronauts debate between Spike and Angel. Download as you please 🙂 Just do a right-click, save as thing though and spare my bandwidth, k?

So that’s it then, my favourite 10 17 or so episodes from all 5 seasons of ANGEL. 🙂 It’s damn hard to pick just 10, it really is. So I didn’t. In fact, I love way more than 17 episodes, but I’ve spent enough time on this as it is 🙂

Oh and Cavemen win. Of course.