Angel: Season 2 Box Set
May 12, 2003
Starring: David Boreanaz, Charisma Carpenter, Alexis Denisof, Andy Hallett, Stephanie Romanov, Julie Benz, Mark Lutz, Amy Acker, J. August Richards, Juliet Landau, Christian Kane,
As Angel season three currently dominates our airwaves in what is Angel’s darkest and best season to date, season two is released on DVD to remind us of what went before.
Season two was the last to feature the Buffy crossover episodes before the two series split in the US, and it runs alongside Buffy’s season five. Unfortunately we’ll have to wait a while for the DVD release of Buffy season five to get the full enjoyment out of this set, but then we’re still waiting for Buffy season four so we can watch Angel season one properly. Somehow, someone, somewhere is going to pay.
Much like the season one DVD release, little effort has been put into the menu system when compared to the splendid animated menus of the Buffy DVDs. With Angel there is no intro sequence, no animation, no life. It’s as though Angel were considered an inferior property to the Bufster, but wait, that’s exactly how they do see it.
While this release may not have had the love and care lavished on it that we can expect for her Slayerness, the episodes themselves (the bits that really matter) are more than worthy.
This season has the dark brooding vampire being tortured by visions of Darla as Wofram and Hart attempt to get Angel to revert to his more violent alter ego. As the series draws on he becomes more detached from his colleagues to the extent where, fearing for their safety, he leaves them behind to face his inner demons alone.
The episode ‘The Trial’ reveals the extent of Angel’s torment and proves the catalyst that throws him over edge into real darkness. Desperate to save Darla’s life he performs three tasks of courage and devotion, the third of which require him to sacrifice himself. All that he goes through, all that he is willing to sacrifice only for it to end the way it did. I found this moment to be the most powerful of the entire series, as even Darla herself realised for the first time the meaning of what it was to live, and to love.
The outcome of this was so tragic that Angel fell into despair, abandoning those that would wish to aid him and losing all respect for life. The spiral of self loathing reached its peak the moment he attempted to throw away his soul. Knowing what it would mean, and the horrific results that would ensue, Angel joined with Darla and risked that moment of true happiness that would have heralded the return of Angelus.
There does seem to be a plot thread here that isn’t taken any further, as clearly something happens to Angel that effects his standing in the world. Upon rescuing Kate from an apparent suicide attempt, she tells him that perhaps they both have a little faith because she never invited him in. So how did Angel enter her home? This is never referred to again, nor is it elaborated on here. It could be something as simple as the fact that she was technically dead, hence he could enter and her faith has now been restored, but I believe there was something more to it, something that just wasn’t developed.
They mention this in the season one over view featurette, saying how they bring closure to Kate’s character and that they’ve developed the Kate/Angel relationship with this revelation. Once again though they don’t explain or even attempt to how Angel entered the room.
Maybe it would have been better to have Angel forced to watch at the door as Kate dies before the mystical barrier was broken allowing him to enter the room, and then revive her. This would have both been more powerful, and would have made more sense.
Angel’s despair drives away his friends and forces him to abandon any trace of humanity that he was clinging to, relying on his soul to keep him from becoming the same as those he fights against.
With Angel going it alone, Cordelia, Westley and Gunn must carry on fighting the good fight without him. After all, Cordy still has the visions and is unable to turn away from them.
In an attempt to drum up some business, Cordelia even suggests swinging by Steven Seagal‘s home. ‘There’s no way he got to be a movie star without some demonic intervention’ she maintains. It’s a valid point. As a connoisseur of bad Seagal movies it was nice to see the portly one get a mention, and he did indeed get demonic assistance in the advancement of his career. The demon in question was Sean Connery, but that’s another story.
This season is full of filmic references, some more meaningful than the Steven Seagal homage. As Angel explains his epiphany to the host he tells him ‘I have done things… questionable things’ – a line straight out of Blade Runner. Both Angel and Blade Runner’s Roy Batty have indeed done questionable things, but here Angel is referring to things he’s done with a soul rather than his soulless vampire days.
Angel has a lot to make up for, but luckily having a gay man’s taste in clothes (Cordy’s words) he is able to win back her emotions with some well chosen frocks. Hey, Cordelia’s character may have grown and evolved since the early days of Buffy but she’s still Cordelia.
The season two finale sees our band of tired heroes travel to Lorne’s home dimension in an attempt to rescue Cordelia. This four part episode quest has Wesley become a military leader, Cordelia turn from slave to Princess and Angel becomes more demon that he’s ever been before. Lorne gets the best of it though as he literally loses his head.
We must pity poor Cordy, as she’s transformed from slave to Princess as a result of her visions and forced to mate with the fearsome Groosalugg – a John Travolta look alike. Life is tough for the queen bitch of Sunnydale. Oh yeah, and they plan to kill her after her mating.
This isn’t really a fitting climax to the series as its intentions are laid out in an obvious manner and repeated to make certain that the audience understands it – to show that LA is the place for people that don’t fit in anywhere else. Moving the story to a place or dimension that we the viewer, don’t care about removes the personal feeling. When Buffy has a season finale it’s generally our world that’s at stake, forcing the gravity of the situation upon us as Giles ferociously cleans his glasses. An alien dimension with beings that don’t even die when their heads fall off isn’t something we can get excited about, the drama should have unfolded or at least spilled over into our dimension.
We do however get the pleasure of Buffy and Angel creator – Joss Wheden as Numfar doing the dances of joy, honour and shame. Did you know it was him?
Angel’s pure demon side is an interesting element, forcing him to accept that he must find a balance between his human and demon personas in order to survive. This new dimension separates them making him wholly human – complete with reflection and ‘not bursting into flames when bathed in sunlight’ issues. The downside is, as mentioned, the pure demon side that he cannot control.
Unfortunately the demon side has been treated as just another demonic monster effect, complete with green skin and horns. It’s not really the frightening inner demon that we imagined Angel having. A more bat styled demon would have been better, particularly as this rabid demon lacks the horror that Boreanaz’ acting is able to give when in his vampire persona, it’s not nearly as frightening as when Angel killed Jenny Calendar in the second series of Buffy. This aside the idea is strong, and Boreanaz’ fear of his demon side more than makes up for it.
It is amusing to find out that the gentle, snappily dressed karaoke singing Lorne is really burdened with the moniker ‘Crevelorne Swath of the Death War Clan’. I hope I spelled that correctly. In honour of Crevelorne I now want to change my name to Stalker Wrath of the Murder-Death-Kill Clan. I think it suits me.
The extra features on this set are the usual TV documentaries made up with interview footage intercut with scenes from the series, nothing special or offensive to the eye. The best feature is without doubt the fact that we get the widescreen versions of the episodes. For those of us that like our television to be filmic, and films to be widescreen this is a great development.
After all, soon all television will be widescreen, and I don’t mean the fake widescreen seen so frequently on MTV as they chop and change between ratios. Studios and advertising agencies will realise that people set their widescreen TVs to its widescreen setting, and anything that falls outside of the 1.85:1 ratio will be lost. Thankfully. Maybe DVD authors will also pick up on this when they add subtitles to widescreen movies and put them below the screen width. On a widescreen TV we can’t see them!
Angel also makes a similar mistake with its menu. The menu is 4:3 meaning you have to switch between ratios when watching the episodes. It’s a minor quibble as at least they’re getting there.
Angel season two is a dark, dark series that explores the violent primitive side of the human psyche. The need for redemption played against the futility of struggling against something that cannot be beaten. Angel realises that it’s his human qualities that keep him from descending into darkness, not his soul. To abandon them means to lose sight of which side he is on, regardless of any soul to guide him.
By: Stalker Wrath of the Murder-Death-Kill Clan