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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 refined.

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 Winifred) turn.

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.

The Usual
The Usual

Random Quotage:

Don't warn the tadpoles?
I... I have frog fear.
-Giles and Willow (What's My Line? (Part 1))

Where to Watch:
  Amazon Instant Video


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