Angel: Season 5
February 21, 2005
Joss Whedon, Skip Schoolnik, Steven S. DeKnight, James A. Contner, Jeffrey Bell, David Fury,
Starring: David Boreanaz, Alexis Denisof, J. August Richards, Amy Acker, Vincent Kartheiser, Andy Hallett, Charisma Carpenter, James Marsters, Christian Kane, Adam Baldwin, Sarah Thompson, Mercedes McNab,
The cruel irony of the fifth season of Angel is that not only was it the best season, it was also the last. After Buffy the Vampire Slayer went off the air, several of its writers started working on episodes for Angel. The difference was apparent right from the season opener. There was a much more playful attitude and the dialogue had more snap to it and more of a zing that was missing from previous seasons. The addition of James Marsters to the cast also helped greatly as he brought his own unique brand of charisma and energy to the show.
As the season begins, Angel (Boreanaz) and his crew move into the Los Angeles law offices of their enemies, Wolfram and Hart. Angel justifies this move by reasoning that they can do more damage to the system from within, adhering to the old adage, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” There is a lot of humour mined at the expense of the culture shock Angel and his gang experience. They go from being on their own, with little to no resources, to having virtually unlimited resources at Wolfram and Hart. For example, Angel attempts to save a woman from a baddie only to have a whole strike force intervene.
Another adjustment includes dealing with Eve (Thompson), their liaison to the partners of the firm. On the surface she seems cheery and helpful but it soon becomes apparent that she is a duplicitous antagonist. Even more significantly, is the addition of two characters from Buffy. Harmony (McNab), the annoying bubble-headed valley girl becomes Angel’s secretary and Spike (Marsters), who is accidentally resurrected by Angel from the amulet that helped save the world in the last episode of Buffy. At first, Spike appears to be some kind of ghost, much to his chagrin. He’s not quite in corporeal form and over the course of several episodes figures out how to become whole again, much to Angel’s chagrin. Spike also provides an excellent counterpoint to Angel. They have always had an antagonistic relationship and it continues here as they bicker like an old married couple.
An example of the more playful attitude of this season, “The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco” episode is a classy homage to the Santos films, a series that starred a legendary Mexican wrestler who fought all sorts of bad guys. Angel is having serious doubts about his effectiveness as a hero and it takes an elderly mail clerk, who used to be a Mexican wrestler superhero, to teach him what it means to be a good guy.
Perhaps one of the funniest episodes is “Smile Time” which has a malevolent force possess all the puppets on a children’s TV show so that they can suck the life force out of their viewing audience. Inexplicably, Angel is transformed into a puppet which provides no end to comedic situations—especially once Spike finds out. The final conflict has Angel and his gang take on the evil puppets that plays out like a PG-rated homage to Peter Jackson’s Meet the Feebles (1989).
Another highlight of this season sees long-time Angel nemesis Lindsey (Kane) returning to give our heroes a hard time. It seems that he’s in cahoots with Eve and much more powerful than he ever was before. Another bombshell is dropped as Fred (Acker) is killed and her body possessed by Illyria, an ancient god who adds much internal tension and moral ambiguity as a wild card in the show.
It’s disappointing that a smart, funny show like Angel could not garner decent enough ratings to stay on the air. It had a good run but was ultimately cut down in its prime, just when it was hitting its stride. At least went out on top but the way it did still leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth.
Each disc features an audio commentary on a specific episode with the writers and directors, and sometimes with a member of the cast (including David Boreanaz, Christian Kane and Adam Baldwin). Joss Whedon contributes a surprisingly sedate commentary on “Conviction” but bounces back on the one for “A Hole in the World,” where he is joined by Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof. Most of the tracks explore various plot points and offer production anecdotes. Some are a tad on the dull side (like the one for “Destiny”) while others quite chatty and informative (“Underneath”).
Disc one also includes the “Hey Kids! It’s Smile Time” featurette which examines the episode where demons possess puppets on a kids show. The cast (and quite humourously, the puppets) are interviewed and talk about the challenge of pulling off this episode.
Disc four features “Angel 100,” which documents the celebration of the 100th episode of the show. Whedon talks about how he wanted to shake things up with this season. The cast talks with pride at reaching this milestone in television.
The fifth disc includes “Angel: Choreography of a Stunt,” a featurette that examines the stunts in the “Shells” episode. Boreanaz’s stunt double takes us through one stunt that involves Angel being thrown through an office building and shows us how it was done.
The sixth disc features a season overview as cast and crew talk about the predominant themes: trying to do good from within the corporate machine that is Wolfram and Hart.
“To Live and Die in L.A.: The Best of Angel” has Joss pick his favourite episodes from the show’s entire run and explain why he likes them so much. It is interesting to see which ones he digs, much as he did on the box set for the final season of Buffy.
“Halos and Horns: Recurring Villainy” examines the most popular bad guys (and girls) on the show. Juliet Landau, Julie Benz, Christian Kane and others talk about their characters and working on the show.
Finally, there is “Angel Unbound: The Gag Reels,” a good collection of funny line readings, blown lines and pratfalls that fans of the show will enjoy.