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ANGEL, Beginning Season Two

A look at the sophomore sessions opening episodes.

By Frederick C. Szebin     October 16, 2000

Returning for his sophomore season, Angelthe ever brooding and nicely-barbered David Boreanazcontinues his fight to protect the innocent in the darker places of Los Angeles. For his first episode, we find that Cordelia and Wesley have become a finely honed team, ready to leave their lives behind at the sound of a beeper from the boss. After accidentally killing the guardian demon of a young pregnant woman who is being hunted by the sinister Tribunal, Angel takes on the role of protector, intent on saving her and her unborn baby from the claws of the dark-robed judges.

Ok, fine. I'll buy it, even though we have no idea why these supernatural busy bodies want the unborn child. We're given a hint in a line of dialogue that it might be some prophesied slayer or such, and that's really all we're given. But the sight of Angel and a deadly armor-wearing demon jousting in the middle of an LA street is definitely a keeper. Guess they were invisible, though, because traffic was moving right along in the background. Talk about LA disinterest, huh?

One of the problems with this show is its insistence on having little enclaves of underground demons doing what little enclaves of underground humans do, such as becoming strong arm gangsters out on the make, or hanging out at dark karaoke bars and singing Barry Manilow songs so some orange-faced master of ceremonies can read your aura. Now, it worked in Star Wars' cantina sequence just fine, but it feels wrong here. Demons being just really ugly people with all the same foibles under their fur/scales/leathery hides plays like a bad joke in a show that should be a lot better than that.

It seems that in an effort to keep Angel from being just another James Dean rip-off, the show's creative crew have instilled the charm of bumbling into his bravado. It's shown here when Angel seems to be stumbling at every point to get the pregnant lady to trust him, hemming and hawing a little when he admits that the coat of arms that could save her life isn't here, but he knows where it is. It seems out of character. It's nice to put basic unheroic traits into a hero, but it seems glued onto Angel. 'Lighten him up, guys,' a TV executive might have said. 'We need to sell more issues of Teen Beat.'

When the story got down to the business of The Tribunalwho made a wonderful entrance, by the waythe show was okay. But this series has never been, and may never be, as imaginative, amusing, creepy and just plain cool as its parent show. Angel has its moments, some very nice demon make up and a likable enough cast, but the second season starts out with the same 'miss-throw' the first season suffered from. It adds up to a nice concept that just isn't as true to its potential as it could be.

The season's second episode fared better, but was ultimately hampered by an ending that reached for pathos, and grabbed a handful of disbelief and maudlin sentimentality instead. It had a nice start, though. As he has in the past, Angel strides off to face another part of his unsavory past. This one was in 1952, when he was staying at a Los Angeles hotel that was haunted by a demon who fed off of people's fear and paranoia. At this point in his life, Angel was a sad loner, refusing any kind of human contact or intimacy until one tenant reaches past his armor and touches his heart. Angel decides to help a frightened little bank robber, specifically to find a safe place for her. But that pesky demon kicks everybody's paranoia into overdrive and Angel finds himself on the wrong end of the rope.

So much in this episode is so good. It keeps flashing to 1952, where Angel relives those long-ago events, to 2000, where Cordelia and Wesley investigate the place and begin to get a fuzzy picture of what went on. This episode contains some of the best past-future transitions since Highlander (the first movie, not the decrepit stepchildren that came later). But there was that ending. I'm not one for spoilers. If I know an article has spoilers, I won't read it, so I'm not going to tell you what happens here. Let's just say I didn't buy it, and just because it pulled a heart string or two doesn't mean it needs to exist.

Maybe the return of the evil lawyers from last season, or a return visit from the vamp who gave Angel his teeth might punch the show up a bit, but I worry. The hotel show was good until that ending. Is this it, then? All Angel can do is give us a few tasty nibbles, while the whole meal is empty calories? Let's hope not. Shows grow over time, if given the chance, and the WB has put some big guns behind this boy. Let's just hope all the hype eventually leads to a show that lives up to it.

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