Season five of Angel begins as most seasons of Buffy and Angel begin: not that great. It’s always torturous to watch a show after everyone else in the world (and in the comments) has watched it, because they assure you that there are oh-so-many good things to come. And mostly what I wait for is the good things to finally make their appearances. But the first three installments of Angel season five were not as remarkable as everyone was saying.
Of course, for me anyway, I was immensely missing Cordelia. I didn’t even realize how much I liked Cordelia until Cordelia just wasn’t there. Well, that’s not really true. I’ve always known I liked Cordelia. And her big absences during seasons three and four were most glaring to me. But I suppose I didn’t know how much she added to the dynamic until she was seriously just not there. It’s weird.
Then you couple the gang being at Wolfram & Hart, and let’s just say that this season is obviously going to be quite different than the dynamics I was used to. So for the first three episodes, there was a mixture of high expectations and new storylines that caused me to feel a bit disappointed.
But then came episode four, “Hell Bound.” I mean, I like the message of episode three, and I’m a fan of the group realizing they work better together and all that jazz (plus, “Unleashed” wasn’t bad — I mean, none of the episodes were bad, just off base) but “Hell Bound” gets into territory that I actually want to see them explore.
If you’ve been reading since the beginning — over a year now, wow — then you know that I’m not Spike’s biggest fan. He’s OK, but to me, he’s no Cordelia. (And I’m sure a million and two people are about to say “because he’s better” but I’d rather have Cordelia.) So, naturally, there were some eye rolls when he came onscreen. I figured that Spike must have made his comeback during season five when I was watching season three on Netflix and suddenly actually became aware that he was on the cover art after months of staring at it but never taking in its presence. “Well he technically died so… he must be resurrected. Wouldn’t be the first time!” is what I thought. And here we are. I love you Netflix, but maybe choose a less spoiler-y cover art photo.
But I do think that Spike sort of got the short end of the stick, here. For a character that was given a soul, we just never dug into him as much as we have Angel. Angel is a main character, while Spike is a supporting player, so naturally he’s fleshed out much more. But this is the Whedonverse, and things don’t work out that way. It’s no surprise, then, that I actually started to care more about Spike’s overall story when he asked Fred for help, telling her that he keeps slipping into hell. Yes, there was some exploration of how Spike’s past haunts him, but… I don’t know, it just never hit the same. I think Besides, I think having another vampire fighting for the good side could cause great tension and reveal some things about Angel we’ve yet to see. All in due time.
But mostly, it was the gritty “Hell Bound” outing that made me begin to root for it all. There’s something about the execution that could have veered into hackneyed but is often controlled. I’m sure we all saw Spike’s emotional climax coming — that all he had to do was bend reality to his will — but I for sure wasn’t expecting him to stay somewhat-ghostlike. I hate to do this, but once again we have a storyline that somewhat parallels the Vampire Diaries universe around the same time that I’m watching it and that TVD is airing.
Over on The Vampire Diaries, (SPOLER ALERT) Bonnie has just turned into a ghost but it seems like she’ll be sticking around… which has made many people upset for different reasons. Lovers of the Bonnie character feel that it’s a disgrace to her character, while haters just want her gone already. There’s no doubt in my mind that she’ll continue to be brought in just to fix plot holes and lines. But I’m never once thinking that while watching Spike here. There’s obvious trust after having watched the material that precedes this season, but it’s more than that. It feels like a genuine arc for his character, and I’m looking forward to it, hoping I don’t roll my eyes in the process.
Ending on “Life of the Party” was equally great. It’s kind of everything we love about Buffy and Angel wrapped into one: exploration of characters, veers into darkness, that charm and camp. Plus, Lorne finally came into the spotlight again. And, as always, Lorne’s great. For the most part, I think that Team Angel’s plan on how to use Wolfram & Hart is… well, non-existant. And I don’t know how they’re going to work that out, insofar that it’s been used as a running gag.
We fight evil. Our clients are evil. Oh, Angel! *Cue laugh track.*
I understand everyone likes some swag, but entertaining evildoers is like the opposite of everything they stand for. Yes, I get it: they were tempted by the flashiness of it all and the hope to stop struggling for everything. But at what point do they realize there’s no money in doing good work and the higher-ups are demanding a bottom line? “This place is trying to change us; never forget that.” So how do you change it without completely going under?
Those questions mostly plagued my enjoyment of the first three. Episodes four and five let me forget about them for a second, and I was off to having fun. So here’s to hoping that the rest are as equally great (or better) as four and five. And from the looks of it, they do get better — significantly so, since everyone’s singing its praises. What is it about season fives that are so great? I should watch a few more before Breaking Bad premieres.