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The Big Damn Angel Rewatch S01E01 “City of Angels”

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In every generation, there is a chosen one. No, shit. Wrong show. What am I supposed to do, now? I guess I’ll just have to recap every episode Angel with an eye to the following themes:

  1. Angel is still a dick.
  2. Cordelia is smarter than everyone.
  3. Sex is still evil.
  4. Sunlight isn’t nearly as dangerous as it was in Sunnydale…
  5. …but its danger is certainly inconsistent.
  6. Vampire/demon rules aren’t consistent with the Buffyverse.
  7. Xenophobia and cultural stereotypes abound.
  8. Women are disposable and unrealistic.
  9. Vampires still @#$%ing breathe.

We open on aerial footage of Los Angeles at night, and Angel’s voice over:

Angel: “Los Angeles. You see it at night and it shines. A beacon. People are drawn to it. People, and other things, come for all sorts of reasons. My reason? No surprise there. Started with a girl.”

During this, we see all manner of slightly weird, possibly demon people doing things. Then we cut to a bar, where Angel is apparently drunk. He’s talking to someone about the girl he loved, and though she isn’t named, we assume he means Buffy. Too drunk to land on a coherent description, Angel tells the person off-camera that they remind him of her.

A bald, middle-aged black guy who regrets ever coming to this bar.

There’s a pretty blonde woman playing pool with some guys and another chick, and as they cash out and leave, Angel is definitely not drunk anymore. He stands up and follows the group into the alley. Sure enough, the dudes are vampires. Angel, still playing drunk, staggers into their midst as they’re about to eat the women. He fights them off, and the blonde, Buffy-like girl tries to thank him, but she’s bleeding. In full vamp-face, Angel tells the women to get away from him, then stakes the last remaining vampire and stalks off into the night, the tails of his duster flapping behind him like a superhero cape while superhero music plays. Cut to opening titles.

Let’s talk about how fucking great this opening is? Even if you’ve never seen a single episode of Buffy, in something like three minutes, you know everything you need to know about this show. You know that Angel is a vampire, that he’s out there fighting other vampires to protect humans and that he’s a dark, brooding anti-hero with a broken heart. Then it’s straight into those opening credits, with images of scared, crying humans in trouble, set to the world’s catchiest cello theme. They didn’t waste any time trying to recapture the tone of Buffy to reassure crossover fans that this would be the same, but they also didn’t make the format super different just for the sake of creating distance. They also made it clear to viewers who either couldn’t connect with Buffy or never watched a single episode that this is going to be a paranormal action/drama series with some humor. No matter where you’re coming to this series from, everyone is on equal footing by the time the opening titles finish.

After the commercial, we see where Angel is currently residing: in the basement of what looks like a semi-abandoned office building. His apartment is super cool, by the way. I really love this set and wish they would have stuck with it a little longer; the hotel got super boring to look at.

Anyway, as Angel unstraps his weapons holsters, he realizes that he’s not alone. Someone is in his house, and that someone is Doyle, an Irish guy who swears he’s human.

Doyle is a dark-haired white guy who at the moment has lots of little blue spikes sticking out of his face.

Interesting bit of trivia here, Doyle was originally supposed to be Whistler from the Buffy season three episode. So we dodged that annoying, fedora-wearing bullet in a big way. I’m assuming that Whedon & Co. were trying to avoid obvious comparisons to Blade, which this show borrows heavily from at times.

But thank god, we finally get an Irish accent in proximity to David Boreanaz that isn’t a twisted, flaming car wreck.

So, Doyle is human on his mother’s side. But, he points out, if he can get into Angel’s house uninvited, he’s not a vampire. So…since when is that a thing? Vampires on Buffy walk in and out of each other’s domiciles uninvited all the time. Yeah, this isn’t Buffy, but it’s the same universe. Hence, #6 is an entry on our list.

Angel asks what Doyle is doing there, and Doyle tells him that he’s been sent by The Powers That Be (heretofore annotated TPTB for our purposes). Then he briefly recaps Angel’s history as a killing machine and his involvement with the Slayer, providing some backstory for viewers who might be unfamiliar with Buffy, chock full of flashbacks to scenes from Buffy. Obviously, this is something that had to happen, because the audience needs some exposition to get into the story. But it comes off so obviously, they might as well have put Giles’s voice in there saying, “Previously, on Buffy The Vampire Slayer.” Even though this is a spin-off, they could have teased Angel’s character out a little. We don’t need a huge info-dump to get into the story. We already know that Angel is a vampire who fights other vampires and has a broken heart. His involvement with the Slayer, his curse, all of that could have been covered without a literal flashback sequence delivered as a monologue to the character the story is describing. Imagine if someone walked into your house and just started telling you, in a super cocky way, the entire story of your full life. You wouldn’t let them go on and on, no matter how intriguing their presence was. You’d be like, “Get the fuck out of my house, I’m calling the cops!”

Angel’s dialogue following this painful exposition only highlights how badly this was executed:

Angel: “Okay, you’ve told me the story of my life, which, since I was there, I already knew. Why aren’t I kicking you out?”

Doyle: “Because now, I’m gonna tell you what happens next. You see, this vampire, he thinks he’s helping. Fighting the demons. Staying away from the humans so as not to be tempted. Doing penance in his little cell. But he’s cut off. From everything. From the people he’s trying to help.”

So, we have Angel pointing out how ridiculous that recap was, and Doyle stating what would have sufficed to get this ball rolling. It’s not helpful to show the problem with the writing and the solution to that problem, but not actually correct it in the dialogue. Because if Doyle had just delivered a slightly different version of that line about Angel being too cut off from humanity to really help, plus the dialogue that follows about Angel drinking Slayer blood recently and eventually rationalizing that as long as he’s saving people, he should be able to eat one occasionally, kind of accomplishes what the flashback exposition did.

This first episode should have sprinkled Angel’s backstory and the connection to Buffy in like breadcrumbs, the way a normal, not-spin-off show would, but it makes the mistake of clobbering us in the face with the whole fucking baguette.

Because Doyle is Irish, of course, he needs to go out and get a beer (#7). Angel demands to know who sent Doyle, but he’s not sure himself:

Doyle: “I’m honestly not sure who sent me. You know, they don’t speak to me direct. I get visions. Which is to say, great splittin’ migrains that come with pictures, a name, a face, I don’t know who sends them. I just know whoever sends them is more powerful than me or you, and they’re just trying to make things right.”

Angel asks Doyle why they chose him, and also, why they choose Doyle to be the messenger. Doyle says that everyone has something to atone for. Right here would have been a great place to talk about the curse. Doyle could have said something along the lines of, “We all have something to atone for. A vampire with a soul, killing his own kind? You must have one hell of a karmic debt.” Or something better. But same idea. It would have given new viewers a hint that Angel’s past isn’t all sunshine and daisies, and that he somehow has his soul while implying that other vampires don’t.

Doyle tells Angel that he had a vision that day. All he got was “Tina, Coffee Spot. S.M.” Though Angel isn’t sure what he’s supposed to do with the information, Doyle urges him to find Tina and get involved in her life in order to figure out a way to save her.

Angel: “Why would a woman I’ve never met even talk to me?”

Doyle: “Have you looked in a mirror lately? No, I guess you really haven’t, no.”

Like, right there, we’ve got a vampire rule subtly laid out for us, with a hint that Angel has been a vampire for a long time. So, it’s entirely possible to pull off re-establishing Angel’s backstory without the “previously on” segment thrust upon us in that earlier scene.

Despite Angel’s suspicion and reluctance, he does go to the Coffee Spot, where he overhears a manager addressing one of the baristas as “Tina.” Tina is desperate for extra shifts, but she isn’t successful in wrangling a hard commitment from her manager. Angel tries to make conversation with her, but being a vampire, he’s not real up on how humans interact. For one thing, he’s approaching this woman at work. Though she ignores his first attempt to talk to her, she’s impressed when his quick reflexes save a coffee mug she accidentally drops, because broken dishes are taken out of her paycheck.

While I’m not criticizing the script for including the line (because restaurants and coffee shops do that shit all the time), you might not be aware that your employee docking your pay for broken dishes is illegal unless they can prove it was done maliciously and willfully. So, just a heads up, in case you work at a place that does this. You can use that information however you wish.

Angel asks Tina if she’s happy because she doesn’t seem to be. She asks him if he’s been watching her, and he tries to play it off like he wasn’t. She chides him for being bad at picking up women, and he points out that she never answered his question. When she responds glibly that she would need hours to tell him, he says,

Angel: “Do I look busy?”

His sincere willingness to listen wins her over, and she tells him she gets off at ten.

Angel waits outside for Tina, but when she emerges, she comes at him with a can of mace.

Tina: “I know who you are. What you’re doing here. Stay the hell away from me. And you tell Russel to leave me alone.”

Angel: “I don’t know anyone named Russel.”

Tina: “You’re lying.”

Angel: “No, I’m not.”

Tina: “Then why were you in there watching me?”

Angel: “Because you looked lonely. And I figured that we have something in common.”

Tina realizes that Angel wasn’t actually sent by this Russell guy. She tells him she’s been having relationship troubles, and she just wants to be able to go home. She came to L.A. from Montana to become a big movie star. She’s going to a fancy Hollywood party, and Angel volunteers to drive her there.

The moment they enter the party, a woman thrusts a video camera in their face. Angel asks Tina who Russell is, but all she’ll say is that he’s a guy she trusted when she shouldn’t have. The video camera woman drags Tina away, leaving Angel on his own. He’s approached by a guy who wants to be his manager, and the guy gives him his card. But then, Angel overhears a familiar voice. It’s…

Cordelia, making a "Grrr" face and holding up clawed hands.

Yay! It’s Cordelia Chase, my favorite, most exhausting person ever! She tells Angel that she’s a successful actress now, living in a condo on the beach, and asks him if he’s still a vampire and, more importantly, that he’s not evil. After he assures her that he’s not going to snack on anyone, she ditches him.

Cordelia: “Well, I better get mingly. I really should be talking to people that are somebody. But it was fun!”

Angel: “It’s nice that she’s grown as a person.”

Angel sees Tina looking worried and being manhandled by a smarmy guy with slicked-back hair. She finds Angel and tells him that the guy, Stacy, is just a creep and she wants to leave. But when they try, they’re captured and separated, with some of the dudes pushing Angel into an elevator to detain him and the others wrestling a screaming Tina into the parking garage.

Angel tries to chase after them but he jumps into the wrong convertible.


He gets into the wrong car. What a weird time for a humorous moment, when a woman’s life is in danger.

But anyway, Angel manages to stop the bad guys by getting into the correct automobile and slamming into the guys’ getaway car with it. He beats up one of the guys and takes his gun, using it to threaten the other dude so that Tina can make her escape.

Angel differs from Buffy in a lot of ways, but guns are one of the most obvious that I can remember from the last time I watched the series. While we see firearms in Sunnydale, they’re either used for non-lethal purposes (shooting tranquilizer darts), the property of the bad guys (the Initiative, Warren) or shown but not used (Jonathan’s rifle). In Angel, even good guys use guns sometimes.

As Angel and Tina flee, we find Cordelia at home. And home is not a condo on the beach. She’s living in a dirty apartment, and her agent has left a message on her answering machine saying basically, don’t call us, we’ll call you. She’s stolen the little star-shaped sandwiches from the party and apparently doesn’t even have a bed, but a teensy couch. Her closet has like four things in it. Her life is miserable.

Angel takes Tina back to his apartment to hide from Russell. Tina thinks sex is the price for her safety, but Angel tells her that she has enough people taking advantage of her. She tells Angel that in L.A., guys like Russell get away with murder:

Tina: “He likes…he likes pain. I mean, really does. He talks about it like it’s a friend of his. And you don’t leave him. He tells you when he’s had enough. I knew this girl, Denise. She tried to get away. She disappeared off the face of the Earth. He finds you.”

Angel: “Not anymore.”

Oh shit, crying helpless blonde girl! That’s a call to adventure if ever one would work on Angel. While Tina sleeps, he goes through her purse and finds an address book with Denise’s contact info in it. Then he heads to the public library to do a little research. This scene is so funny, okay? Angel is sitting in front of not one, but three computers with stuff about Denise’s case on the screen and he moves between them all looking really concerned. All I can think is that after living in Sunnydale, where nobody is allowed to use a computer except Willow, he’s binging on every little piece of freedom Windows 98 can offer him. But what is perhaps the best part of this scene is that this show premiered in 1999, meaning that he wouldn’t have needed three computers to look at three different browser windows; Windows 95 gave users the ability to open multiple browser windows. It’s like, is Angel impressive because he’s a two-hundred-plus-year-old vampire using a computer, so we just give him a break, or is Angel hopeless because he knows how to use a computer but like, only at the level your grandparents are capable of?

When Angel returns to his apartment, he hears Tina having a violent nightmare. She wakes up, and while she’s still shaky and unsteady and convinced that Russell is there with them, Angel is like, by the way, did your friend have a tattoo? Because if she did, she was like, totally murdered. He doesn’t even wait for her to fully recover from her horrifying, clearly PTSD-induced nightmare before he drops that bomb on her. So, #1. It gets even worse when he goes on to tell her, yeah, Russell picks women who don’t have families so that nobody will care if they disappear, and it’s like, wow, harsh, Angel. Why don’t you mock her hairstyle next?

Unfortunately, Tina sees the note Doyle gave Angel, which has her name and where she works written on it. She assumes he’s one of Russell’s henchmen sent to manipulate her, and she runs from the apartment. Angel pursues her in an attempt to explain himself, but she pulls him into the sunlight and his arm bursts into flame. He vamps out, and she runs away, horrified.

After the commercial, Tina is frantically packing up her apartment. She grabs a gun from a desk drawer and suddenly turns to aim it at…

Just an average looking white guy in a suit.

That’s him? That’s Russell? Wow, he’s not very scary, is he? I mean, apart from the fact that he’s tracked Tina down and knows where she lives because he owns her apartment building. Next, we’ll find out that he also bought the place where Tina works and doesn’t want her hanging around her friend José anymore.

Tina demands to know what happened to Denise, and Russell says that not only is Denise not dead, but he bought her a ticket home and is going to help her go to college. Art school, maybe?

Russell: “Look, we both know I live outside the box, but I don’t go around killing my friends. If you’re sick of L.A., you need rent, you know I only want to help you. Just tell me what you want.”

He’s only here to help, Tina. Let him buy a publishing company for you to work at.

Now, inevitably someone in the comments is going to say, “I wonder if E.L. James was an Angel fan,” but I just want to point out that even though I’m poking fun calling Russell Christian Grey, this type of dude is so common that of course, he’s going to pop up in media over and over again. That’s the part that’s so sick and sad. Nobody has to find a character like Russell to use as a template for their own creepy, controlling stalker guy; they’re a dime a dozen in real life.

Russell asks Tina who’s been filling her head with all these ideas because that’s another thing guys do to manipulate and control women. They insinuate that they’re crazy so they doubt themselves. And it’ll work on Tina, for sure, because she’s freaked out at having seen a vampire. She tells Russell that Angel turned into something scary, and Russell is like, oh, you mean like this:

Russell is all vamped out, and his face is really, really scary gross vampire. It's greenish.

And then he bites Tina.

Now, hold up a damn minute. We clearly see Russell standing in front of a window in full daylight. A split second of exposure to the sun sent Angel’s wrist up like a tinderbox, but Russell is like, “I’ll position my vampire self in front of this sunny window with flimsy blinds,” and it works out okay for him? How? See: #5.

Where were we? Oh, yeah, Russell was biting Tina. That’s important, let’s get back to it. Angel bursts into Tina’s apartment and finds her dead from Russell’s vampire bite. From a roof across the street, Angel watches as the police deal with the murder scene. With steely intent, Angel jumps off the building like a superhero. Unfortunately, we never see him stick that superhero landing. I guess it wasn’t really a thing in 1999. Back at his apartment, he tells Doyle about Stacy, the guy Tina had argued with at the party. Angel tells Doyle to check car places for the Mercedes that Tina’s would-be kidnappers were driving

Doyle: “You couldn’t have known she was gonna run out on you like that.”

Angel: “Forget it. Let’s get to work.”

Doyle: “You can’t cut yourself off–”

Angel: “I will. I don’t want to share my feelings. I don’t want to open up. I want to find the guy who killed Tina, and I want to look him in the eye.”

Doyle: “Then what?”

Angel: “Then I’m gonna share my feelings.”

On a beautiful, sunny day at Russell’s mansion, Russell’s lawyer assures him that everything with Tina is taken care of. The police are going to blame a black guy for Tina’s murder, so Russell is free to keep on doing what he’s doing. Which is watching the video taken at the party. This laywer guy is a real prick. He knows his client murdered Tina because he just admitted to doing so. Anything for a buck, right? Oh, and he works for a place called Wolfram & Hart. WELCOME TO THE BIG BAD OF THE ENTIRE SERIES. I love that they’re introduced here like this lawyer guy is incidental when really he becomes a major antagonist down the road. I wish they would have kept Mr. Trick alive and sent him to work for Wolfram & Hart. That would have been so cool, to think that The Mayor turned to the same people that all the bad guys in L.A. also turn to for help. And it would have connected the two universes even more. And Mr. Trick probably wouldn’t run around blaming random black guys for vampire crimes.

Oh well. Hindsight and all that.

Russell notices a new girl on the video. It’s Cordelia. Russell tells his lawyer that she’s not going to be a long-term investment. He’s just going to eat her.

Over at Stacy’s gym (and we know it’s Stacy’s gym, because it says Stacy’s Gym on the window Angel throws a dude through), Angel violently confronts Stacy to demand Russell’s whereabouts.

Stacy: “You get in his way, he’ll kill you. He’ll kill everyone you care about.”

Angel: “There’s noone left I care about.”

In her apartment, Cordelia is meditating to take her mind off the fact that she’s starving. The phone rings. It’s Margot, from the party, and she’s drinking a bloody mary and taking pills while she invites Cordelia to meet Russell to further her career. So, Margot basically procures these girls for Russell to eat, I assume, and the pills and booze are a way of deadening any guilt she might feel? Cordelia jumps at the offer and rides in a limo to Russell’s house, while back at Angel’s apartment, Angel is packing up his gear to go head-to-head with the vampire himself. Doyle tries to get out of helping, but under great protest, he puts on a trilby hat and follows Angel.

Yeah. A trilby. How did we not see Nice Guy Joss coming down the pipe way sooner than we did?

After the commercial, Cordelia is in Russell’s house, complimenting the decor and babbling about how her family lost all their money due to her parents’ tax fraud. Russell asks her how her acting career is going, which immediately punches a hole in her defenses and she admits it’s not going as well as she’d hoped it would. Outside, Angel and Doyle pull up to the gate and Angel is for some reason dressed like Doyle and putting on an Irish accent? I think? I feel like it’s very difficult to tell if David Boreanaz is doing an Irish accent or not most of the time. Anyway, for some reason, he’s disguised like Doyle, walks up to the security guy at the gate, and punches him out.

Well, what was the fucking point of wearing a disguise if you were just going to go with brute force? And why was it necessary to do an Irish accent? This guy doesn’t need to buy your elaborate cover if you’re just gonna knock him unconscious.

So, then Angel sneaks into the house without the disguise on anyway. I…what…?

Inside, Cordelia is voicing some real tough shit to Russell.

Cordelia: “I’ve tried really hard, you know? Usually, when I set out to do something I succeed at it right away.”

Wow, raise your hand if you’ve ever felt that. I’m forever one of those people who believe they can do anything and then when they can’t do something, they can’t figure out what went wrong. I’m seriously like that, to the point that “I bet I can do that,” is going to be my epitaph.

Russell has his exploitation act super refined, so in just a short conversation, Cordelia is willing to accept his help, even though she’s clearly aware that it’s going to involve sex in some way. And because Russell has so much practice exploiting young women in Cordelia’s position, he’s made her feel safe. She starts crying with relief.

Cordelia: “I’m sorry, I’m getting all weepy in front of you! I probably look really scary. I finally get invited to a nice place with…no mirrors and…lots of curtains. Hey, you’re a vampire!”

Russell: “What? No I’m not.”

Cordelia: “Are too.”

Russell: “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Cordelia: “I’m from Sunnydale. We had our own Hell Mouth. I think I know a vampire when I… am alone with him in his fortress-like home.”

This is the scene that convinces us that we can sympathize with Cordelia as a protagonist of this series when she was an antagonist on Buffy. It’s because she’s crying, right? She’s crying, and she’s not thrilled about trading sex for survival, but she’ll do it because she’s reached this abysmally low point?

Okay, but why? Why did she sadly steal those sandwiches from the party? Why couldn’t she have been at the party specifically to steal food? If some guy is implying, you know, sleep with me and I’ll make you rich and famous, why can’t Cordelia think, yes, jackpot? She’s too smart to sacrifice her survival on the altar of perceived morality. Why does Cordelia Chase have to be humiliated for us to view her in a new light? Especially when Cordelia Chase has never been the kind of person who lets a little humiliation get the best of her?

The first and most obvious answer here is: it was easier. It’s far easier to show a woman like Cordelia, coddled and privileged through childhood, failing at basic survival than it would have been to show her thriving. It’s much easier to make a character weak than it is to make a character a complex person.

The second answer is: it’s punishment. Remember, Cordelia Chase rejected Joss Whedon’s avatar in Buffy. Before any of us can be on her “side,” we need to understand that she’s suffered enough to earn it. Granted a lot of this analysis is coming from a post-Charisma-Carpenter-talking-about-being-fired-by-Whedon-for-getting-pregnant-and-destroying-his-artistic-vision-with-her-vengeful-womb state, and keeping in mind all Whedon’s recent fuckupery. But all of that aside, we see this treatment of female characters a lot in the Buffy-verse. Their “lowest point” usually involves losing sexual agency. So, I think it’s what happened here. A male creator couldn’t understand why an audience would like a woman who’d rejected a nice guy, so she had to pay before her redemption would be palatable. The only way to achieve this is if her sexuality (the only thing that male creators tend to find particularly valuable about female characters) is threatened by exploitation.

But you know what really reels us in? Not her “suffering,” which lots of people live in daily (the classicist overtones of the Buffyverse are going to be heavily, heavily critiqued during my season four recap, so brace yourselves), but the fact that no matter how much her life has changed, Cordelia is still the smartest person in the room. She walks in and the first thing she notices is the curtains. Then when she notices no mirrors and, hey, those curtains again, that’s all it takes for her to realize that Russell is a vampire. And she knows she’s right because she has experience and know-how and she’s not going to let anyone pull the wool over her eyes (#2).

Which doesn’t really fit with the Cordelia who’s apparently taking “no” for an answer and living in passive misery. I’m just saying. We don’t know the Cordelia Whedon thought we would need to see to make her likable. We already liked the Cordelia we knew, and now she’s back.

Also major kudos to Vyto Ruginis for a) being so amazing as Russell in this scene and b) having the most Baltic name in the known universe.

While Cordelia is in this perilous situation, Angel plants a bomb in a fuse box outside the house. Wait, where did he get a bomb? Is Giles here somewhere?

Cordelia tries to run from Russell, but he catches her and is about to bite when the eensy wittle bomb goes off and knocks out the power. Why did Angel knock out the power?


I mean, he might have had other reasons, too, but it seems like his grand entrance is perfectly timed so as to correspond directly with his big speech about having a message from Tina.

Cordelia: “You don’t know who he is, do you? Oh boy, you’re about to get your ass kicked.”

Let’s not get too over-confident there, Cordy. The only times you’ve seen Angel fight, he’s been working in tandem with Buffy. And really, more times than not he’s a liability in those fights.

But either way, their very obvious stunt doubles fight it out until gun-toting baddies rush in and start firing. Angel uses his body as a human (inhuman?) shield to protect Cordy. He sweeps her up in his arms and heroically jumps from a balcony with her.

Outside, Doyle waits in the car. Hearing gunfire, he decides he’s going to take off, but he doesn’t get far before he changes his mind, pulls a U-turn, and rams Angel’s car into the gates.

Which does basically nothing.

The important thing is that the car is still driveable, and Angel and Cordelia are able to get to safety.

Back at Angel’s apartment, Doyle is performing amateur surgery to remove the bullet from Angel’s chest. Which, by the way, is unnecessary even if Angel wasn’t a vampire. The best thing to do for a bullet wound isn’t to remove the bullet at all, and there are a lot of modern-day gunshot victims walking around with bullets or fragments of bullets just chilling in their bodies. Removing any foreign object from a penetrating wound is just a terrible idea if you’re not a doctor in a hospital setting.

That said, Angel is a vampire. I may be mixing up my vampire mythos here, but didn’t we see a bullet fall out of a vampire’s wound as he healed over on ye old Buffy? Either way, they didn’t mention the bullets being silver or anything, or Angel’s healing ability being lowered, so this “we must remove the bullet!” surgery, followed by Cordelia’s tender bandaging of the wound (which will rapidly heal) is all basically just a chance for David Boreanaz to be shirtless and gasping in agony.

The classics never die.

Cordelia is worried that Russell will come after them, but Angel isn’t going to let that happen. No, Angel strolls into a boardroom in a glass skyscraper the next day, where he’s confronted by the lawyer from Wolfram & Hart, who tells him that Russell is never going to be convicted of any crime. Russell tells Angel that things in Los Angeles are done differently than he’s used to. Russell says as long as he pays his taxes and keeps his name out of the papers, he can do whatever he wants. And Angel asks:

Angel: “Can you fly?”

He pushes Russell, rolling office chair and all, out the window. As he flails to his doom, Russell catches on fire. By the time he hits the ground, he’s just a chair covered in ashes. Angel strolls out like a bad ass (although I’m still not certain how he got there in the daylight and how he managed to get through a glass skyscraper in L.A. without ever encountering sunlight but they play fast and loose with the rules over here on Angel), and the Wolfram & Hart attorney calls the home office to set up a meeting. Probably to discuss losing such a big client in such a violent way, though the guy seems pretty laid back for having just witnessed a murder. He says something ominous about not bothering the senior partners, and you get the feeling that maybe Wolfram & Hart isn’t entirely on the up-and-up, what with consorting with rich vampires and all.

Back at Angel’s apartment, he’s all alone and sad. He dials the phone, and we hear Buffy’s voice answer. But he doesn’t say anything, he just hangs up. Caller ID is a thing, Angel.

Doyle comes in and asks Angel why he seems so glum. Angel says it’s because he just killed a vampire, he didn’t really help anybody. But Doyle points out that Cordelia is happy. Aside from the blood-curdling screaming from upstairs. They run up to the bright and sunny office above Angel’s subterranean brood lair to find Cordelia shouting about a cockroach. She’s more or less hired herself to work for Angel’s new detective office, which he didn’t realize he had started yet. She tells him they should charge people for their help on a case-by-case basis, and Angel should employ her to take care of administrative work, at least, until her acting career takes off. Doyle tells Angel that a lot of people are going to need help, and asks if he’s going to step up to do it. Cut to Angel standing on top of a roof at night, smirking over the city like Batman with the world’s most ridiculous boy band haircut.

Angel: “I’m game.”

All in all, this is a great first episode if we remove the weird Cordelia stuff. The tone is established as being darker, the framework of Angel’s hero’s journey is finally in place (he didn’t really have one as a side character on Buffy) and it ends with one of the more spectacular vampire deaths in television history. This show is good, guys. Even if it had been totally disconnected from Buffy, even if it had been a new universe and these characters weren’t already beloved, I would still have been invested after this opening. Is it a slightly different Forever Knight? I admit yes, and that might be the draw, because I loved that show. But I’m really excited that you guys asked me to recap this so often that I gave in, even if I’ve just added like 11 years to my rewatch.

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  1. Ilex

    I for one am thrilled to see these Angel recaps (and what other plans could you have had for the next 11 years, anyway?). I didn’t see nearly as many Angel repeats as I did Buffys, so I’m really excited to revisit this series and see what I’ve forgotten. Or what you call out that I should have noticed in the first place.

    October 6, 2017
    • Ilex

      P.S. I forgot to mention, I’m still grieving for Doyle even though he was barely on the show. I’m not sure why his character haunts me this way, although of course Glenn Quinn’s real-life death contributes to it.

      October 6, 2017
      • Trix

        I totally get that. It’s hard for me to start an Angel rewatch, knowing I’m going to be bummed out in the beginning.

        October 7, 2017
  2. Cooper

    Hooray!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    I have never been able to get through the first two seasons of Angel, although I can burn through seasons 3-5 in no time. I’ve been very much looking forward to experiencing the first two via your recaps!

    One question, why the Whistler hate? I’m headed back to the Buffy recaps to find out…

    October 6, 2017
  3. Tashilicious


    Cordelia is the best character on this show. No exceptions. We should have a number for “Cordelia Chase will call out your bullshit with no hesitation”

    October 6, 2017
  4. Quelaag

    Angel recaps have started already?! Yea! 😀

    #4, because of smog. And the offices of Wolfram & Hart probably have tinted windows that block out UV rays, what with so many of their clients and employees being vampires. Still doesn’t explain how Angel got there, though.

    “But all of that aside, we see this treatment of female characters a lot in the Buffy-verse. Their “lowest point” usually involves losing sexual agency.”

    We see that treatment a lot in fiction in general. It’s disturbing how often rape is used as the “go-to tragic backstory” or character development for female characters, especially when so many of the authors who use that trope are men.


    “Jeremy Slater, currently the showrunner on Fox’s reboot of The Exorcist talked about his process for choosing writers for that show, and how disappointed he was that far too many writers couldn’t pass a very basic test. “One of my hard-and-fast rules when reading spec scripts was, the second that there was a rape that was used for shock value and that didn’t have any sort of narrative purpose, I threw the script aside,” he said. “And I was shocked by the number that had that. I would say out of those 200 scripts, there were probably 30 or 40 of them that opened with a rape or had a pretty savage rape at some point. It has become a plague on the industry.””

    October 6, 2017
    • Maril

      As someone with some experience in the industry I’m less surprised by the number and more surprised by his surprise… The industry is disgusting and sexist as all goddamn fucking hell. Way worse than other industries I’ve worked in and I’ve worked in oil/construction (on-site pipeline construction project. Pay was great, but every time I was at camp someone was arrested for attempted rape) and video games too. Video game industry actually treated me pretty well once the guys realized I didn’t care if they swore, and thus wasn’t going to ruin their fun.

      I’m not going to go into detail, but if I didn’t enjoy the act of creating watchable content so damn much I wouldn’t touch the entertainment industry with a 10 foot pole. I interviewed for one of the big companies at one point and it was said to me ‘it will never change. At least not before a woman is the head of one of the big 3.’ I am not especially sad I didn’t get that job and I hope my interviewer rots in a special place in hell.

      October 6, 2017
      • Quelaag

        “The industry is disgusting and sexist as all goddamn fucking hell. Way worse than other industries I’ve worked in and I’ve worked in oil/construction…”

        Which is even more strange to me, considering that so many in the movie/tv industry espouse progressive ideals, and the industry as a whole is often accused of having a “leftist agenda.”

        October 7, 2017
        • Maril

          Yeah, and in a lot of ways it is progressive/leftist, but you also have to remember two very important things about this industry that’s different than other industries:

          1) it attracts a lot of vulnerable people who are easy prey to douchebags (while it is primarily men preying on women who want to be stars it does also happen with other gender combinations, and occasionally a powerful star will expect to be ‘persuaded’ into signing on to a movie by that young junior producer desperate to keep their job by signing the star the studio wants because they WILL be fired if the star doesn’t sign)


          2) the industry is almost entirely fueled by investments from old white men. And often getting those investments require… persuasion. Such as looking the other way while he gets creepy with the pretty young cast member.

          And more often than not this tends to result in the women in the industry, on both sides of the camera, looking like they’re only there because they fucked the right person, and they’re then considered less than because they didn’t ‘earn’ their position through ‘talent’ like most of the men did. Which also helps the men justify paying them less. So you’ve got an industry built on exploiting women, full of people who want their ego’s stroked, that feels it ‘needs’ to condone the exploiting of women on at least some level, and that looks down on women for being less talented and deserving than men. It makes for a very toxic environment, and seriously hurts the way women are portrayed by the industry as well.

          October 7, 2017
        • Kim

          Leftist isn’t feminist. Doesn’t surprise me after reading some second wavers talking about how 70s feminism grew out of getting involved and immediately hearing some version of ‘the mimeograph is over there, could you answer that phone, honey? and cream two sugars when you get a chance, thanks’ The radical anti-war leftists didn’t really care what they had to say or treat them any better than the Mad Men did. On top of that, Free Love enabled a specific brand of sexual harassment wherein if you weren’t fully participating in the sexual revolution, you were one of THEM. It doesn’t seem like hollywood has been any different. The studios fell, the revolutionaries (Kubrick, Allen…Polanski) took over and closed the door behind them. Then the independent film boom/Miramax era (hey there, Harvey) and now that the Geeks Have Inherited The Earth they’re not exactly rushing to make space at the table either, even when they seem to genuinely belief they are (Hey there Joss!) I mean, do you wanna talk male gaze? The Oscars have yet to even nominate a woman for Best Cinematography. This industry literally has yet to acknowledge the female point of view!

          October 11, 2017
          • Maril

            This is a very accurate assessment based on what I’ve experienced. Though to give some good news, I have worked with several people new to the industry under the age of 30 and so far all of them have been good and treated men and women fairly equally (a few of them clearly have a bit of a saviour complex, but that’s a lot better than being a rapey asshat). So I’m hoping that’s a sign that when this generation takes over it’ll be less disgusting. Though, there is the possibility they simply haven’t been corrupted yet, so we’ll see. I do know the older they are the more likely they are to treat women like garbage though.

            My personal goal is to someday have my own small production company that has certain safeguards in place (namely, people I would trust with my niece’s life, and incredibly strict rules that even the people who think they’re untouchable HAVE to follow or they WILL be fired and assuming sufficient evidence, charged) to protect against the kind of exploitation and harassment the industry is rife with and try and show that you can be successful without being run by dickbags like Harvey Weinstein. I’d be a pain in the ass to work for for some people, but I don’t want those people working for me anyway!

            October 11, 2017
  5. Lily

    I love Angel the show, and I am glad Angel, Cordy, and Doyle had to grow into being heroes, rather than being heroes right out of the gate. (Also glad other characters had to do the same.) And I love how Cordy knows Russell is a vamp like that. Just love it.

    October 6, 2017
  6. GoddessJenn

    Wasn’t there some place In the first couple of seasons of Buffy where Joyce causes trouble by inadvertently inviting Spike or another vamp in? I feel like the “vampires needing to be invited in” thing was inconsistently dealt with in Buffy, but not left out all together? Am I misremembering?

    So glad to see Angel done in tandem with Buffy. I didn’t get into Angel when it aired, so I’m looking forward to reading the stuff I missed! So thank you!

    October 7, 2017
    • Jemmy

      Darla, Joyce invite Darla in. Darla said she was helping Buffy with study and attacked Joyce to set up Angel.

      Spike has been in chatting with Joyce and having hot chocolate (I think, I vaguely recall marshmallows), I think that was after Buffy called a truce with him in Season 2 and didn’t revoke the invitation as she did with Angel.

      October 7, 2017
      • Kim

        Right, when she said she was tutoring Buffy in history. Specifically helping her with “the War of Independence” which…maybe should have been a red flag, Joyce

        October 12, 2017
  7. Cavalish

    I never understood why Buffy had to save the world through Just Being The Slayer and hard work and research and sheer dumb luck, but Angel got The Powers That Be guiding him and taking care of his affairs.

    October 7, 2017
    • Jemmy

      I always wondered who chose the Slayer. That’s how it is phrased and someone has to do the choosing. I always wondered if that was something the Powers that Be did.

      October 7, 2017
    • Robyn Hoode
      Robyn Hoode

      I would like to jump in with an imagining and say it’s because The Slayer is a human creation using magic/mysticism and TPTB are supernatural?

      Still sucks!

      October 7, 2017
      • Quelaag

        Even if Buffy isn’t under their employ, wouldn’t the TPTB still be concerned with end-of-the-world shenanigans happening in Sunnydale?

        October 7, 2017
  8. Jemmy

    I’ve never been fond of Cordelia as a character, and I especially don’t like the development of the relationship in Angel. However, I do like her straightforwardness and this particular episode I love the bit with Russell at the end. She progresses to clearly realising Russell is a vampire to realising she’s also kind of screwed cos she’s alone in his fortress house. The “I’m from Sunnydale, we have our own Hellmouth” is a pure joy to watch.

    I think the next episode has the Spike line I still use even now “I had a plan, I had a good plan – then I got bored”.

    October 7, 2017
  9. yogacat

    Forever Knight!!! Wow I thought I was the only one who remembered that show. I remember loving Jeanette and wishing she was in it more.

    October 7, 2017
  10. Percysowner

    I loved Cordelia on Buffy and on the early seasons of Angel. Once they decided she had to be “good enough” for Angel, the character lost a lot of her appeal for me. Give me snarky, self-interested, smart as a whip Cordelia!

    October 7, 2017
  11. Siona Larsen
    Siona Larsen

    The homomisia is STRONG in this show. Especially when Wesley comes in it seems like he and Angel constantly have to reassure people they’re not together and they’re not gay and it’s just like… why? Why is this necessary?

    And Doyle is the Xander of the the Angelverse

    October 7, 2017
  12. AwesomeDeryck

    Hooray for Angel recaps! Fun fact: I learned English watching that show.

    October 8, 2017
  13. Jon

    What happened to ‘if I was reviewing Angle I would say Angel is a nuanced character’ or however you phrased it? Is he still a dick in spite of being more rounded?

    October 9, 2017
  14. Bookjunk

    A long time ago, not having seen a single episode of either Buffy or Angel, I used to think that Buffy just couldn’t be any good because it had the most ridiculous name and Angel was for tweens who were in love/lust with David Boreanaz. Boy, was I wrong! They’re both awesome. (Though there’s a season of Angel – 3? 4? the one with Gina Torres – which is just straight up bullshit and I hate it. I mean, there are really good bits too, but I absolutely hate the arc of that season. It’s so dull and insulting.)

    October 10, 2017

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