The world seems to have a slight obsession with vampires at the moment. You can’t see a movie, switch on the TV or open a book without running into one, and most of them are, friendly, helpful, polite even.
Such is the influence of the character of Angel who we first saw in Buffy The Vampire Slayer and then later in his own spin-off Angel, which ran for five seasons from 1999-2004.
Taking a slightly darker tone than its parent show, Angel deals with the effects of being grown up and dealing with life in the big bad city. With a strong first season, Angel managed to step up to the plate in fans’ expectations and was on top form in season five, which added more salt to the wound when it was cancelled rather unexpectedly.
It was a bit of a process to get here, but here are what I believe to be the best episodes Angel had to offer.
10. Life Of The Party Season 5, Episode 5 (2003)
I’ll admit straight off the bat I am a huge Lorne fan, played by Andy Hallett who sadly passed away earlier this year. When Angel was becoming a bit too serious for itself, the introduction of this character was like a breath of fresh air and I was thrilled when the team behind the show made him a series regular.
The reason I like this episode, though, is because it is one that really pokes fun at itself. When Lorne becomes obsessed with organising the perfect Halloween party for the firm’s clients and employees, he has the need for sleep removed, causing every piece of advice to literally happen and his empathic subconscious to create a huge demon version of himself.
There are plenty of laugh out loud moments when Lorne’s advice starts to take shape: Gunn’s marking of his territory is one and also there’s a softer side with Lorne thinking his talents don’t match up to his friends’.
9. RedefinitionSeason 2, Episode 11 (2001)
After firing Cordelia, Wesley and Gunn, Angel takes it upon himself to become a one man fighting machine to take down the duo of Drusilla and the newly changed back Darla. Across town Lindsey and Lilah find themselves the only survivors of Drusilla and Darla’s massacre of the Wolfram & Hart staff the night before.
Wondering why they have been left alive they find out that they have been chosen to be the vampire duo’s contacts on the inside.
While the gang drown their sorrows and figure out what to do next, the Powers That Be guide them via Cordelia’s visions to a woman in trouble. They will carry on the good fight with or without Angel. Determined to stop Darla raising a demon army and causing more murder and mayhem, he sets fire to the warehouse she is in without remorse.
8. HomeSeason 4, Episode 22 (2003)
After killing Jasmine and destroying world peace, Lilah turns up with a proposition for the gang to take over Wolfram & Hart. Reluctant at first, eventually they all sneak off for a tour of the building.
While Fred is shown around the science department, Lorne is given a sneak peak in the Talent Department and who they represent. Wesley is shown the vast collection of mystical references they hold on file. And Gunn who, although he’s a great fighter and has street smarts, is given the ability to act and think like a lawyer.
Angel remains unimpressed with it all and doesn’t want to make a deal, until he sees that Conner is holding a store hostage and is ready to blow himself, his hostages and a comatose Cordelia up.
Angel arrives at the store and promises a deranged Conner a better future but, disbelieving him, Conner goes to press the button. Stopping him, Angel pulls down a knife in a deadly blow.
Back at Wolfram & Hart and gang is musing over the positions being offered to them. Angel arrives to let them know he has accepted for all of them. Asking Lilah if he can see Conner he leaves prompting Fred to ask, “Who’s Conner?”
7. Harm‘s WaySeason 5, Episode 6 (2004)
Taking a step back from the larger plot developments of season 5, Harm’s Way focuses not on any of the main characters of the show but on an old friend from Buffy who has since grown up and vamped out: Harmony.
Now working at Wolfram & Hart, we are given a sneak peek into Harmony’s life. She lives by herself in her very pink apartment, her neighbours ignore her as do her work colleagues, and she believes that she no longer matters.
With Angel & Co now in charge at the firm, vampire employees are forbidden to drink human blood. So imagine Harmony’s horror when she wakes up naked next to the body of a demon peace negotiator. Frightened she will be staked for this, she hides the body and tries to stay ahead of the gang as they investigate, finding out eventually it was a fellow vampire secretary who set her up. Killing her out of anger, she inadvertently solves the peace crisis and saves the day.
6. HeroSeason 1, Episode 9 (1999)
There are few shows that are brave enough, especially in their first season, to kill off a lead character. But that is exactly what the Angel team did in this episode from season one.
After handing back the chance of mortality, Angel needs to prove to himself it was the right decision and when Doyle gets a vision of half-demons being hunted down and killed, he sees it as his chance. The half-demons are being hunted down by The Scourge, who believe that all half-demons must be killed because they are not of pure blood. Thus, they have created a machine to do just that.
Rather than allowing Angel to sacrifice himself by destroying the machine, Doyle confronts Cordelia about his half-demon heritage and his feelings for her. Before he goes he gives her one final kiss, which not only shares his feelings but his gift for visions.
Looking back now, this episode is even more poignant as Glenn Quinn, the actor who played Doyle, sadly passed away in 2002.
5. TomorrowSeason 3, Episode 22 (2002)
With Angel’s seemingly new relationship with Conner ticking along. things seem to be going well for our vamp with a soul. When a gang from Wolfram & Hart attack to try and kidnap Conner, Angel realises that the danger has not passed and will do anything to protect his son.
In the meantime, Lorne tells Angel that Cordelia is in love with him just before he leaves for his new life in Las Vegas. Also sensing Cordelia’s feeling for Angel, the Groosalugg also departs, leaving Angel and Cordelia to arrange a time to meet up and share their real feelings with each other. Before any of this can happen though, Conner kidnaps Angel to punish him for killing Holtz, which he mistakenly believes he did.
As Angel is encased in a metal coffin and thrown into the ocean, Cordelia is met by her demon guide Skip who tells her she is now a higher being, it is time for her to leave Earth and thus she ascends into the heavens.
4. Not Fade AwaySeason 5, Episode 22 (2004)
The final episode of Angel sees the gang taking the fight to the doorstep of the senior partners at Wolfram & Hart by convincing the team that they will have to kill all the members of the Circle of the Black Thorn. He instructs them all to live the next day as if it is their last.
Lorne visits a karaoke bar, Gunn goes back to his old neighbourhood, Spike reads his poetry at an open mic event, Wesley spends the day looking after lllyra who asks if he would like to see her in Fred’s form. He refuses, as he would not accept the lie, and Angel visits Conner who admits to him he knows he is his father and is thankful for trying to give him new memories and a new life.
That evening, the gang decide the best course of action is to divide and conquer. As they attack and kill their respective targets, surprises and deaths are in store. Lorne kills Lindsey on Angel’s behalf, Gunn is mortally wounded, Conner joins Angel to fight the good fight and Wesley is killed but before he dies lllyra switches back to Fred’s form to comfort him in his last moments.
As the remaining members of the team meet up, the senior partner’s vast armies make their way to Los Angeles and the team get to work.
3. You‘re WelcomeSeason 5, Episode 12Angel‘s 100th episode sees the return of Cordelia, who has been stuck in a coma since the end of season four. After a strong vision jolts her back into the real world, Cordelia realises she needs to put Angel back on the path of good and show him that he has been seduced by the glamour and power of Wolfram & Hart.
Meanwhile, Lindsey McDonald is back and posing as Doyle. Wanting to exact revenge on Angel, he plans to launch a failsafe to destroy him which is kept in the basement of the firm. Covered in mystical tattoos, he manages to bypass the guards and security cameras and make his way down there. Angel and Lindsey fight and Fred breaks the mystical spell protecting him, leaving him to the wrath of the senior partners.
Later in the evening when they are left alone, Cordelia confesses that her coming back was a favour from the Powers That Be. As she finally kisses him, the phone rings and as Angel answers, discovering that Cordelia never left her hospital bed and had, in fact, just died, she disappears forever.
2. Waiting In The WingsSeason 3, Episode 13
With Lorne acting as babysitter for the night, Angel decides to take the gang to the ballet to see a performance of Giselle by the same company he saw in 1890. As they get ready for their evening out Lorne broaches the subject of Angel’s feelings for Cordelia and encourages him to let her know how he feels. Once they arrive at the theatre and the performance starts, Cordelia finds herself bored to sleep, while Gunn is enchanted by the performance in front of him.
Angel soon realises that the prima ballerina (Firefly’s Summer Glau) he is watching is the same from 1890, and as soon as the interval curtain goes down he and Cordelia decide to investigate. While backstage they become possessed by the prima ballerina and her lover and are unable to keep their hands off each other. While the gang goes to help them they discover that the Count, who owns the company, has put a spell on the ballerina so she can only dance for him, a punishment for being in love with somebody else. While the ballet continues, Angel approaches the ballerina to tell her to break the magic she must dance her own steps and while she is on stage he takes on the Count, smashing his power source and freeing the company.
When they get back to the hotel in the evening, Angel is about to let Cordelia know about his true feelings just as Groosalugg returns for her as his own true love. As they kiss, Angel goes to check on Conner, his chance lost.
1. Smile TimeSeason 5, Episode 14
When Angel discovers that kids TV show, Smile Time, is stealing the life forces from children through the television screen, he goes to the studios to investigate. While there he is hit by a flash of light from a giant egg which turns him into a puppet (“I’m made of felt, my nose comes off.”)
When arriving back at the offices to explain what has happened, Fred goes into research mode while Wesley and Gunn go to talk to the show’s creator. When Angel’s love interest, werewolf Nina, comes to see him, he hides pushing her away. He later apologises and in werewolf form Nina attacks him. She awakes the next morning covered in felt and thinks she has eaten him!
Spike then arrives and finds the entire situation hilarious, causing Angel to snap and start fighting with him, which creates, quite frankly, the most amusing minute and a half sequence of any television series I have ever seen. After Gunn and Wesley’s visit to the studio is unsuccessful it is revealed that the puppets are actually controlling the show.
With their long term plans in jeopardy they decide to suck the remaining life force out of all their viewers the following day. With time not on their side Wesley and Fred discover that the singing numbers in the show act as a cloaking device to send messages to the children.
When they reach the studio, the puppets’ final plan has been put into action and the fight begins, with Angel turning into a puppet vampire, again bringing on plenty of laughs. With the puppets and egg destroyed, the life forces return to the children and Angel will once again become flesh and blood, but not before he bags himself a breakfast date with Nina.
Who said puppets can’t have fun?
So that’s my top ten and once again I look forward to hearing yours!