Some spoilers for the show. I’ve seen seasons 4 and 5 before. You don’t need to watch Buffy in order to understand the show but… well, you’ll definitely get more out of it if would watch Buffy seasons 1-3 first. Besides, why would you not want to watch Buffy?
How I’ve missed new episodes of Buffy!
Oh, I know that this is Angel and not Buffy, but there’s so much similarity that they feel much the same: the dialog, the mix of humor with adventure/horror, Cordelia, Angel, Wesley, Angelus, Faith! Buffy even stops by for three episodes!
One thing is certainly different: there’s no overarching plot for the season. In fact, except for the last few episodes, the episodes feel almost like one-offs plot-wise. There are recurring characters and character arcs that bring continuity to the series, however.
Considering what happens to Doyle, it’s interesting to note that he didn’t really get a character arc. He starts as a wise-cracking half-demon who has a crush on Cordelia and wasn’t really different at the end. Oh, he might have learned something about friendship and even self-sacrifice, but it didn’t really change his behavior. We met his wife in one episode, but that almost felt like a one-off with no consequences later.
Cordelia seems to have a minor character arc. However, at the start she’s already a bit different than she was during most of the time she was on Buffy. There, she has a cruel streak, at least towards Willow, but that isn’t really seen on Angel. Oh, she can say cruel things but to me it seems that she’s clueless or so self-absorbed that she doesn’t realize how it will hurt others. In other words, a typical teenager. However, I think her change away from deliberate cruelness started near the end of the third season of Buffy when she suddenly became poor and didn’t have the luxury of ignoring other people to the degree she had done before. Then, when she got the visions, which are painful, she develops a need to save people, although this could be seen as selfish because it would make the visions go away. In the last episode of the season, she’s clearly determined to help people, though, and that’s a very different Cordelia than the one in Buffy season 1. Oh, and by the way, she really needs to get more self-defense skills. I’m really surprised that Angel didn’t enroll her to a karate class or something considering that he did some angst about putting other people in danger.
I’d argue that Wesley’s character arc lasts all the way to the final season and to the comics. However, he’s changing throughout the first season already. When he first comes to Angel Investigations, he’s played as a bumbling comical side kick. He also feels that he’s useless to the people around him and is comically grateful when Angel gives him a job. His use of weapons is at first more comical that anything else (the rogue demon hunter!). However, during the season, he gains visibly more confidence, returns to researching demons that they meet, and even starts to give advice to Angel, thus starting his long trek towards badassery. (I’ve seen seasons 4 and 5 so I know what he becomes.)
Interestingly enough, Angel doesn’t really have a character arc. I think that’s mostly because he had one in Buffy: Angel is first the brooding loner type but ends up being an integral part of the Buffy-team. Oh, he has an episode where he mopes about how everyone around him are in danger, but he snaps out of it before the end of the episode. However, it was even mentioned in one episode that because he’s undead, he can’t change and therefore has nothing to look forward to. (Which I really disagree with; his personality, goals, and actions can and change.)
However, the most clear character arc belongs to a secondary character: detective Kate Lockley. When the series starts, she has no idea that the supernatural exists. During the first season, she’s introduced to it pretty brutally and has to deal with what it means both to her and to her career that demons and vampires are real and in her city. I really hope that we’ll continue to see her in the future. I feel that her arc isn’t complete yet. When we last saw her, she was blaming Angel for showing the supernatural world to her and wanting nothing to do with him.
We also get a character arc for Lindsay McDonald who starts out as one of the lawyers for Wolfram & Hart. He has a crisis of faith but returns to work for evil. I thought the episode in question (Blind Date) was hilarious, particularly his boss’ peptalk which is actually a peptalk *to do evil*.
Then there are the two Faith episodes! I love Faith but she was really messed up here. I’m also not really happy how quickly everything was solved. Surely, it should have take days for Faith to realize just what she has done and how far she has fallen and that she can still change the path and redeem herself? Then again, maybe she’s supposed to have known it all along and just refused to really look at herself. But than again, I still feel that a few days is far too small a time to do a complete turn-around. Of course, it might have gotten boring for the viewers if she had hung around at Angel’s for half a season… although I certainly wouldn’t have objected. I’m still not sure just what she’s supposed to learn in jail. Surely, having therapy sessions would benefit her more than being locked up with criminals?
The season doesn’t end with a cliffhanger which are so common today. But there is a taste of things to come.
All in all, this a very entertaining season and I’m hoping that it will get just better!