Angel: Season 4
January 29, 2005
Joss Whedon, Skip Schoolnik, Terrence O’Hara, James A. Contner, Bill Norton, ,
Starring: David Boreanaz, Charisma Carpenter, Alexis Denisof, J. August Richards, Amy Acker, Vincent Kartheiser, Andy Hallett, ,
Spin-off shows from other, more successful TV programs almost never succeed. For every Frasier there are many more Watching Ellies or After MASH. Angel is one of those rare examples of a success: five seasons of high quality episodes with a world and characters that were able to get out from under the shadow of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and establish their own turf. Gone are the sun-soaked locales of Sunnydale—replaced by the mean streets of Los Angeles.
Season Four is arguably the darkest one of the series as Angel (Boreanz) and his team start off deeply divided. Angel and Cordelia (Carpenter) are missing. Wesley (Denisof) has gone rogue after plotting to kill Angel’s son and is literally sleeping with the enemy—Lilah Morgan (Stephanie Romanov), an attorney with the evil law firm, Wolfram and Hart. Fred (Acker), Gunn (Richards) and Connor (Kartheiser) try to keep the business going. To further complicate matters, Wesley finds Angel locked away in a box at the bottom of the ocean where Connor put him. Cordelia finally shows up with no memory and an aura that Lorne (Hallett) identifies as being evil. Got all that? And this is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg as Angel, Connor and Cordelia form a tragic love triangle. Connor and Cordelia end up consummating their relationship and she gives birth to a being that threatens to take over the world and turn Angel and co. into its unwitting pawns.
This is not to say that the show doesn’t have its moments of levity. “The House Always Wins” has Angel and his team take a road trip to Las Vegas to rescue Lorne from a greedy casino owner who is using him to read the auras of audience members and profit from them. This gives the writers all kinds of opportunities to poke fun at sin city with coy references to Mel Torme and Lorne vamping it up like a classic lounge singer. It’s a fun, playful episode.
The most important story arc of this season involves the presence of The Beast, a powerful being from the centre of the Earth that threatens to eclipse the sun, in “Long Days Journey,” and wipe out Angel and his crew. Angel’s dark side, Angelus even returns and this causes all kinds of headaches. So much so that bad-ass vampire slayer, Faith (Eliza Dushku) is called in to take him down with Wesley’s help in a three-episode arc that culminates in a ferocious battle in “Release.” And, of course, Angel’s long-standing nemesis, Wolfram and Hart, are back to provide the key to Angel’s future as revealed in the next season—sadly the show’s last one.
There are six audio commentaries spread out over the six discs in this set. They feature a wide variety of people behind the camera, from writers like David Fury to directors like Terrence O’Hara to cast members like Andy Hallett. For the most part they are all informative and entertaining with the best of the bunch being the one for “Spin the Bottle” featuring Joss Whedon and Alexis Denisof. Joss enjoyed doing this episode because it allowed him to feature the bookish, wimpy Wesley from Buffy with the new, tougher version from Angel. Both men joke with each other in an amusing, entertaining way. Fans of Joss’ self-deprecating humour will love this track.
On the second disc is “Angel and the Apocalypse,” a featurette on the ambitious special effects for the episode, “Apocalypse, Nowish.” In addition to a nice nod to Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963) with many birds attacking our heroes, there was also a fantastic rooftop battle that culminated with a strangely beautiful-looking firestorm.
The sixth disc contains the bulk of the extra material. “Prophecies: Season 4 Overview” features Joss, the writers and the cast giving the lowdown on what this season was all about. It’s a decent synopsis of the season.
“Unplugged: Season 4 Outtakes” is an amusing collection of the cast blowing their lines, doing pratfalls and generally goofing around in front of the camera.
“Last Looks: Hyperion Hotel” is a guided tour of Angel’s base of operations with all of the important sets shown and there fascinating insight into how the look of the show is created.
“Fatal Beauty and the Beast” is the lowdown on the two major bad guys of the season—The Beast and Jasmine. The two actors who play them are interviewed and they talk about their respective approaches to their characters.
Finally, there is “Malice in Wonderland: Wolfram and Hart,” a featurette on the evil corporation that has been a thorn in Angel’s side from the first season. As someone points out, they are our worst dream: lawyers in league with evil forces, possibly the Devil.
This latest season of Angel comes in an attractive box set with superb transfers of all the episodes (letterboxed!) and a nice collection of extras that fans of this excellent show will enjoy.