The Bite Stuff
by Luke Boger
It must be the curse of the spin-off. It seems that there
can't be an article about Angel
without a precursory mention
of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Just as Fish never escaped
the shadow of Barney Miller
and The Ropers never lived up
to the legend that is Three's
Company, it's difficult to
discuss poor Angel without
giving due props to its big
sister. But this year that habit should stop.
Buffy's on UPN now. Angel's still hangin' tough on
the WB — and it's even moved to Monday nights.
The divorce is final. Besides, now entering the core
of its third season, Angel has evolved into a fine
show in its own right.
Granted, unlike those admittedly silly examples
above, Angel was never a shoddy spin-off. Its first
season may have been a little uneven, but the show
certainly showed promise and possessed a lot
more style and charisma than most hourlong
dramas. It had a refreshing combination of dark
modern horror, clever dialogue, and a wee bit of noir
thrown in for good measure. And since its premiere,
those already sound qualities have only been
Moreover, although Angel is now a benevolent
vampire with a soul, his past is filled with horrible,
evil acts against humanity. The backstory alone
makes the possibilities for continuing storylines
surrounding Angel's emotional and psychological
torment practically limitless. Season number two is
where the show really found its footing in that
regard, kicking into overdrive when Angel's old
vampire flame, Darla (Julie Benz), arrived in L.A.
But along with added depth, a bigger sense of
humor and more cerebral scares, season two
brought with it something else that is probably just
as important to the success of a series (especially
one whose cast has to measure up to Buffy's gang
of "Scoobies") — more first-rate characters.
While David Boreanaz still catches a lot of justified
flack for being wooden at times, companions
Charisma Carpenter and Alexis Denisof, whose
Cordelia and Wesley characters were also carried
over from Buffy, are great fun to watch and have
always had a natural rapport. But something was
definitely missing. Three was not enough company.
Creators Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt must
have known that a trio wouldn't be able to recreate
part of what makes Buffy so wonderful — the group
interaction. To fill that gap, Gunn (J. August
Richards), the Host (Andy Hallett) and now Fred
(Amy Acker) were written into the show — and
thankfully, they're all welcome additions.
Gunn and the Host have been successfully
integrated, and their characters are getting some
more room to breathe and grow. Now, it's the
delightfully kooky but brilliant Fred's (short for
Tonight, her parents (Gary Grubbs, Jennifer Griffin)
appear at Angel Investigations, looking for their
long-lost daughter — who, unbeknownst to them,
was trapped in a demon dimension for the past five
years. Inexplicably frightened, Fred takes off before
Mr. and Mrs. Burkle can see her, leaving Angel,
Cordy, Gunn and Wesley to wonder if her parents
are to be trusted. All Angel and crew have to do is
find Fred before any harm comes to her.
Unfortunately, the Host isn't helping matters by
telling Fred, "You haven't run far enough."
Aside from the goofy B-movie bug monster that
shows up, it's nice to see that an episode
surrounding the newest character was made with
such care. Its quality is a good sign of what's to
come in the future.
With Cordy and Fred, Angel already has strong
female leads to rival Buffy. In a few weeks, Darla's
also going to be back in a big way. Anyone watching
this season so far has probably noticed that little
Darla references have been thrown in here and
there — primarily to show us that she's pregnant
and that we should expect her to visit "daddy"
(guess who that is) at any time.
Life is shaping up to get very interesting at Angel
Investigations. And Angel-philes may never need to
bring up that vampire vanquisher whom Fred calls
"that girl with the goofy name" ever again.