I can’t believe it! I was so happy when Doctor Who came back to our screens in 2005. It seems I wasn’t alone either; the show grew in popularity in ways we classic fans could never have expected. Then 2006 came and the popularity continued to grow and there was a spin-off series, Torchwood. Then another came with The Sarah Jane Adventures. I mean, the man behind all this brilliance, as far as I could tell, was Russell T. Davies. Sadly, when he left, Stephen Moffat came in and tried a different strategy which gave us some good ideas, but over the course of his tenure, the show seemed to have lost something. In my world, it was the fans who had loved the RTD era and bailed with Moffat’s. Bummer for me; I wanted people to talk to about the show. Then Chris Chibnall came in and I can’t help but wonder if he was trying to drive the remaining fandom to the hills. We lost so much when Russell left. At the time of my writing this, there’s been all this talk of a new showrunner taking over Doctor Who which made me realize what we needed while watching the first episode of Angel. We need a writer like Joss Whedon. And that’s because he did with Buffy what Russell would do with Doctor Who, but he did it years earlier. He treated the audience like we were intelligent!
Angel opens up following our brooding friend into Los Angeles, after he parted from Buffy at the end of season 3. He’s no less broody, but I found myself completely taken by the story. It, like most openers, is there to set the stage so it lacks some of that intricate storytelling I like, but that’s ok. We need the foundation and if there was one thing I learned from Buffy, it’s that you need to give a new series the chance to breathe! This episode feels far more like a traditional action show from my youth. I was thinking of any of the dozens of detective/good guy shows (Magnum P.I., Simon and Simon, or maybe even The A-Team) in that it’s got a guy who helps people in need. This series is firmly placed in the realm of the supernatural right down to Irish porcupine-boy, Doyle, who gives Angel a name to find for no reason whatsoever. He says names just come to him and I chuckled because I was thinking, “yeah, dude, it’s the writer!” But that doesn’t take anything away from the story. Angel is given a name of a girl whom he epically fails to save. What an unexpected start to his career. Luckily for (both me and) the series, Cordelia is back and he does manage to save her. “It’s nice that she has grown as a person!”
The episode does what the parent series was good at, but might actually be doing a better job with it. I think one reason I still consider Buffy The Vampire Slayer a guilty pleasure is that it’s corny. Angel takes a more serious approach to the stories, at least based on episode one, but still manages to drop in some comedy. Unlike Buffy, it’s less Peter Parker and more Wolverine complete with Assassin’s Creed wrist blades. (Perhaps, to maintain the comparison, it’s more Torchwood but that comparison fails because no one would ever say Torchwood is better than Doctor Who, no matter how good it is. I probably just need to give this more time; I’m reacting off one single episode so far!) I want to point out that I have been loving Buffy but I do find the Spiderman-like make witty comments during a battle a bit silly. Never liked it in the comics and don’t like it in a series. However this series had a moment that I thought was brilliantly understated and very funny; more of the style of humor we get with Wolverine. Doyle tries to plow through a gate and crashes epically with a mumbled comment about it being a strong gate. (Earlier in the episode, while telling Angel how helping people is a positive thing, he is asked for change by a homeless woman and he shrugs her off telling her to get a job. Again, subtle, not Peter Parker!) The bottom line is, this works very well. Whether or not this continues is impossible for me to say without pressing on, but I loved the opening episode.
If there was something I didn’t like, it was the inability to tell when was day and when was night. Angel and Russell seem to be walking around a lot during the daytime. That said, nothing could derail my enjoyment of the episode once we get to the final confrontation. First off, I don’t know if this series will do anything akin to the parent series with talking about something real, but I did hate Russell as a man who preyed upon weak, vulnerable women. So even though I saw it coming, I was so happy with the execution (literally) that it didn’t matter. Angel asks Russell if he can fly… then he kicks him through a window of a high rise during the daytime. Russell was dead before he hit the ground and I was cheering in my seat! To then put the final touch on this outstanding cake, Angel calls Buffy, tying in with the first episode of season 4, when Buffy gets a phone call while visiting her mom. In that moment, I knew I’d continue with this show. It’s a subtle tie-in that affects nothing if you don’t pick up on it, but it was absolutely outstanding when we piece it together. The writing treats the fans like they have a brain. I think Chris Chibnall should learn from this.
The episode ends with a mention of the “senior partners” and we know there’s a big bad operating behind the scenes. Cordelia decides she’s going to help Angel setup his detective business and I realize this series should have been called Angel: Vampire Detective. Oh, what might have been! ML
In reflection of the Junkyard’s reviews for spinoff series like Torchwood, Sarah Jane Adventures, Class, Crusade and Mrs. Columbo, it’s fitting that Angel may now broaden our consensus for how spinoffs became particularly popular in this century. The main fascination with how they might achieve something that the parent series couldn’t is always discussable, with specific spinoffs for the Whoniverse speaking for themselves. For the interest in seeing how Angel can endure in his own troubled existence without Buffy, the promising opportunity to expand the Buffy-verse was there, also with an intriguing opportunity to expand Cordelia’s existence as well. Thank you for including Angel on the Junkyard, ML.
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