With the influx of new series appearing on our screens and DVD, it becomes increasingly hard to follow new series, and even harder to watch old. TV Club 10 establishes a Top 10 episodes that best represent the Angel series. These can not be the 10 top, but the 10 essential episodes to the understanding of the series (without having to watch).

Buffy the Vampire Slayer will always be the creation of a fetish Joss Whedon, and for good reason. In the seven seasons (especially between season 2 and 5), Whedon has inspired a team of young writers and even younger players turn what should have been a horror-comedy series for teen frivolous in a most ambitious series of our time. Quickly, Buffy has developed its own mythology and mixed with progressive ideas about gender roles (feminism) and adolescence-adult pass.

A contrario, Angel, le spin-off de Buffy, never became as culturally interesting or popular than her sister. Yet, Team Joss Whedon provides a larger and worked effortlessly (many of those who started on Buffy, have come to bring what they learned). The writers of Angel are part of the cream of the crop of television, which Tim Minear (American Horror Story), David Fury (Lost, Fringe, Hannibal), Steven S. De Knight (Spartacus, Dardevil), Shawn Ryan (The Shield, Terriers), Marti Noxon (Mad Men, UnREAL), Ben Edlund (Supernatural) and Jane Espenson (Battlestar Galactica, Once Upon a Time). Together, they are part of a basic concept – following a vampire who hunts demons and works as a private investigator in Los Angeles – and created something richer and deeper than Joss Whedon would have thought. A l’instar de Buffy, Angel brings together a selection of colorful characters who happens terrible things, sometimes pushing against each other.

In Angel, David Boreanaz takes the character he played for three seasons on Buffy : a vampire with a reputation as a bloodthirsty killer over the centuries, following a curse, finds his soul. Shortly after arriving in Los Angeles, Angel finds an old acquaintance in the person of Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter), who wants to become an actress while working for “Angel Investigations”, and finally develop the power of vision thanks to Powers That. The first season of Angel is basically a series of supernatural investigations. Only by arguing that the universe of the series is growing, firstly by introducing a powerful enemy : Tungsten & hart, a powerful law firm to demons. Then adding allies Angel which Charles Gunn (J. August Richards), Wesley Wyndham-Pryce (Alexis Denisof) Imported Buffy series, Early scientific Winifred “Fred” Burkle (Amy Acker), and singer in a karaoke demon Lorne (Andy Hallett). Later, Angel to fight alongside his son Connor (Vincent Kartheiser) and his old rival in Buffy, Spike (James Marsters).

For dedicated fans of Buffy, Angel offers the opportunity to spend even more time in the universe Buffyverse, they have so loved to Sunnydale. But, while the problems on Buffy tend to be more down to earth, Angel in the series, they take an almost epic proportions, where each new character adds his grain only when the consequences will be reflected in the ultimate role that Angel will play in the end of the world (he is the champion or the enemy). The main mission of the hero is, here, atone for his past as Angelus to achieve his redemption.

Like its predecessor, Angel plays with the conventions of the horror-fantasy while adding pop-culture references keys and spread well placed. The series is both dark, hilarious and panting a few times, but more than anything, the series is very sensitive to the meaning of being alive and accomplish something. It is an ambitious saga that chronicles the battle of good against evil; but also takes into account the small problems of life.

Manuscript (1.22)

A high quality of the season 1 Angel is that it is evolving in the way of presenting the episodes. Thus Password “the case of the week” very procedural with her supernatural side, the ceaseless struggle against Wolfram & Hart. Later in the season, after the arrival of Wesley (who lost in shyness since Buffy), Angel series finally found his voice as a heroic saga witty. The last episode of the season “Manuscript” acts as a second pilot episode, changing the spirit of the series almost radically, while keeping what worked. During the episode, screenwriter David Greenwalt destroyed Angel's hideout and gets rid of Oracles who were the link between Cordelia and The Powers. It introduces a new character, Gunn, a hunter of vampires living in the street, and the famous prophecy Shanshu. The latter predicts that Angle (or someone like him, a champion), again become human after having made many good deeds. With this, Angel series is this mixture of horror, fantasy and black series with a more diverse cast and a very great purpose on Buffy.

The Hotel du Mal (2.02)

This episode shows how Angel has abandoned its suite of one-shot so much that it is easier to talk about that episode arc. Roughly, two-thirds of the season 2 Angel shows currently repel friends while he takes drastic measures regarding Darla its former partners in crime (Julie Benz) and Drusilla (Juliet Landau). Then, the season ends with a storyline a little strange where the group trip to the demon dimension Lorne where they met Fred. There are some rather impressive storyline for this season, and yet the tone is set by a stand-alone episode entitled “The Hotel du Mal“, in which Angel Investigations moves into an old Hollywood hotel where Angel lived in years 1950 (alongside communists, Prostitutes, homosexuals, and others “Undesirable” of the time). With some nods to films like Rebel Without a Cause, Psycho ou Imitation of Life, director David Semel and writer Tim Minear connect both the environment of the Angel series with old movies. And most important, the fact of showing the long history of the hero and his need of redemption lays the foundation for this second season and shows that things are changing. The episode also shows that the past often haunts this.

The Demon du Passé (3.05)

As for Buffy, Angel's fans often argue about their favorite season. Is this is the second which gives the series a broader universe ? The fifth, which perfectly completes the series with heavy (but inspiring) decisions ? Or third, qui… okay, there is not really boring to do. This is the third, point final. Most of the best writers of Joss Whedon were on the season 3 (including Greenwalt, Minear, Noxon et Fury), working on a more complex and interesting scenario, with characters taking cruel decisions that do not always work. And most important, season introduced the character of Fred, which quickly became one of the favorite characters from the series. It grows especially in the episode Children of the Past, where she is on the verge of leaving Los Angeles to leave with his parents before realizing that it is really part of the Angel team. It's hard not to love someone who described his mental state as : "Oh, ah, fizzy. Kinda weird and … fizzy. But excited. And a little sad. Thankful. Sorta cautiously happy. Relieved and worried at the same time. Slightly nauseous while still bein’… hopeful?”

Birthday (3.11)

One reason why the third season of Angel is one of the favorites is, that despite his long narrative arcs, she sometimes surprising us with shorter storyline. More Smith, writer (too little known) Angel deserves all the credit for what this great episode “Birthday“, in which Cordelia has an overview of the life she might have had if she had not met Angel and she became TV star. In addition to its generic sitcom laughing “Cordy!”, episode introduces us the demon Skip, starred by David Desman. What happens in this episode have consequences later in the series, but for the moment, the episode is inventive, entertaining, different from the others, and also an indicator that shows the creative team of the series Angel knows very well the characters.

The Wings of Eternity (3.13)

The presence of Joss in the Angel series is not as notifiable she was in Buffy. But he sometimes played its executive director position to take the reins. Somehow, episode “The Wings of Eternity” is the version of Angel “The Spectacle Begins“, except that instead of songs, there is the mystical ballet scenes. When Angel urges his friends to accompany him to the opera to see a play that made him cry 1890, he realizes that the captivating ballerina (played by Summer Glau) it is the same there 2 centuries. Angel wants then release the dancers of this curse that require them to repeat night after night the same performance for over a century. But the episode actually focuses on the main character trying to manage their own personal emotions, undergoing themselves evil spells behind the scenes of the opera. Joss Whedon then uses this mechanism to explain the complexity of behavior and human relations.

Unforgivable (3.17)

Most episodes of season 3 This list can watch without really knowing the overall plot of the season. But this is not the case with other episodes of season 3 which was constructed so that the storyline are present in all episodes. The episode “Unforgivable” would have very little sense for someone who does not see the 16 episodes that preceded it, but it is nevertheless very important to the narrative of the season 3 of Angel. Here, Wesley prefers to believe an ancient prophecy about Angel rather than his friends, the then leading to betray them and run away with baby Connor, leading almost to his death. “Unforgivable” is both interesting and poignant. This is the kind of episode that leaves fans with a sore heart and a desire to know later.

Soulless (4.11)

The same year that gave Joss Whedon Firefly and Buffy ended, Angel the series was at its darkest days, and the lowest since the season 1. (It's probably not using the series that focuses its season 4 Connor, which is one of the most hated characters.) The best, season 4 Angel works like a “study” of darkness / evil, taking into account what each character would become if they succumb to their worst instincts. And this theme is at the heart of one of the strongest arc this season, when the group intentionally remove Angel's soul to become Angelus, to get information to stop the Apocalypse. The plan did not go as planned; and the episode escalates in excellence when heroes one by one realize what they did while they mocked by Angelus tells them their truths. It reveals secrets, broken relationships, because Angelus did not bother with pleasantries.

The Evil Puppet (5.14)

One of the most remarkable aspects of the Angel series is that the writers were always on the lookout for new ideas to renew the concept of the series. The end of the season 4 totally changed the series, Angel placing ahead of Wolfram & Hart; season 5 following the result of this choice (while bringing characters from Buffy; Spike to Harmony). The 5th season returns to typical format “An episode, a thing”. The episode “The Evil Puppet” is one of the fans favorite episodes, mainly because it changes into a delightful puppet Angel to look sulky. But “The Evil Puppet” Also referred to as Gunn and professional crisis (where he tries to change to become more than just muscle group), and a new romance between Angel and Nina. Generally, the episode is funny and suggests that these characters could find a way to be happy in spite of who they are and what they do. Yet, episode A Hole in the World arrive…

A Hole in the World (5.15)

Fully directed and written by Joss Whedon (which rarely happens on Angel), the episode is a pillar of the series and almost a thesis on life. After Wesley finally got what he wanted, out with Fred, Whedon us hard again when Fred becomes infected by an ancient demon called Illyria. This is an upsetting episode, yet, Whedon pace the episode as a heart beating adventure where the group does everything he can to save their friend's about to die. Whedon shows us how even the best of us must take responsibility and, even if it changes us forever. The character of Angel realize they are sometimes not size and the forces of evil are always present and sneaky. Fred's death will leave a hole in the world.

The Last Combat (5.22)

The cruelty of the episode A Hole in the World is considerably attenuated by the last episode of the series, which is one of the best. Since the beginning of the season, Angel struggles with the fact whether it is possible to change a corrupt organization from the inside, without becoming corrupted itself. Figuratively speaking, death / possession of Fred answers the question. Yet, episode “The Last Combat” strongly present the concept of “continue fighting even when it seems impossible”. As the end of the world approach, Angel gives his friends and colleagues a respite last day to do what they want before they battle hordes of demons. Aware that they are not their for a few hours to live, they decide to make them memorable. It remains the last post in the series : It is always better to think of better days, but succumb to cynicism.

Source — via AV CLUB