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ANGEL: Episode by Episode, Part 4

In the concluding installment of our interview with Tim Minear, the supervising producer brings readers behind-the-scenes of of the final episodes of the first season.

By Edward Gross     September 26, 2000

In 'Prodigal', the present day story deals with possible corruption involving Kate's father, ultimately resulting in the man's death at the hand of vampires. In flashbacks, however, we are given insight into Angel's past, seeing him reborn as a vampire (thanks to Darla [Julie Benz]), after which he kill his family as his first vampiric act.

Tim Minear says that this was 'one of those instances where I had about three days to write the script.' He explains, 'The story was not really completely broken, and they were about to prep it. The prep date ended the day before the Christmas break, and when we came back after the break it was the first day of shooting. Which does not mean that I had the luxury of writing the script over Christmas break, because they needed the script to prep the episode beforehand. So I was feeding them pages as they were prepping. I did a rewrite over Christmas break, and I rewrote almost every day that they were shooting until it was done. I've been in that situation before and Joss was very supportive in terms of telling me not to panic and telling me that it was all going to be fine.

''Prodigal', in some ways, was a reaction to 'Hero',' he details. 'For me, a lot of criticism we got was that [in 'Hero'] here are these Nazi demons marching through the streets of Los Angeles, and no one seems to notice. But I think that's part of our show; that these things exist side-by-side in Los Angeles and no one notices. So part of the point of that story for me was that people see what they want to see; everyone saw what they wanted to see in that episode. Angel saw his father as a prick, but he really wasn't. His father saw Angel as a loser, which he didn't need to be, and Kate saw her father as distant, when Kate's father was doing everything because he loved his daughter. Of course on a larger scale, demons are running rampant through Los Angeles, and Angel says, 'You've probably seen this kind of thing before, you just didn't have a name for it.' She didn't realize it, but it was true.

'Also, I wanted to do the origin of Angel; I had a big hard-on for that. When I pitched it to Joss, I said, 'It's Angel clawing his way out of his grave and Darla standing there.' And he just said, 'It's so important.' To me, my favorite scene in that episode is when he comes back, confronts his father and then kills him. And also, if you pay close attention to the episode, you find out how Angel got his name. His father says, 'You can't come in here. A demon has to be invited in,' and Angel glances over to the door and says, 'I was invited,' and you see his little sister dead. He looks at his father and says, 'She thought I was an Angel returned to her.''

Filming on location did result in one noticeable problem 'They shot the graveyard stuff at the Hollywood Forever cemetery, which is right behind Paramount. That was a real cemetery, and it was very cold that night. We could see our two vampires' breath, which is a little bit of a problem, but they couldn't afford to take it out.'

Things move more toward action-adventure in 'The Ring', as Angel is captured and forced to participate in a new sport: a gladiator-like struggle involving demons and vampires who are fighting for their freedom and their lives. Describing the show as 'Spartacus-like', Minear also recognizes one questionable moment: after Wolfram and Hart purchase Angel from the ring-leaders but he refuses to simply walk away and forget what he knows, they deposit him back in to the arena. Uh, don't they want this guy dead anyway?

'But do they want him dead?' Minear muses. 'At the point Faith was involved, they wanted him dead, but not now. Look, it's easy to fall into the trap of, 'Why don't they ever kill Mulder?' You know what they say on The X-Files, 'He would become a martyr.' Every week it seems like the Consortium is saying, 'We can't kill him.' Well, why not? And in the movie there was a scene where they said, 'We can't kill him,' but in the very next scene they shot him in the head. Again, you always run into this problem. But I think if you have a little patience, it will all make sense.'

'Eternity' has a struggling movie actress coming to Angel in the hopes that he will turn her into a vampire so she can liveand be a starforever. Unfortunately, she slips him a drug called 'bliss' which temporarily results in his being really happy. A moment later, Angelus is back for a time, attempting to torture and kill Cordelia and Wesley.

'Possibly Joss' favorite episode,' says Minear. 'Again, one of the very first episodes, as I mentioned before, where the permutation of the script you saw came after Joss decided that Angel should go bad in the second part of the episode. I know there was a lot of criticism on the Internet about the way he went bad, and did he really go bad? The idea of giving Angel a variation of ecstasyto me, that just worked. I thought it was a really good way to bring Angelus into the series for a moment so that he could interact with our characters for a moment, without doing some big 'Angel has turned evil' arc. You sort of get to have your cake and eat it too in that episode. It really works when he goes evil. Again, what happens is that everything in that story ends up coming out of the characters. It's not contrived. Wesley reacts the way he should and Cordelia is reacting the way that she should. I saw some criticism about Cordelia reacting too Cordelia-like in the first half of the episode with her star-struckness. But that would be her. That makes perfect sense to me. And also Angel feeling reticent to get involved with somebody he might feel an attraction to. I know something Joss reacts to very strongly was that, originally, we all thought we were going to have this little wrap up scene with this actress. You know, the things she learned and blah, blah, blah. And it ended up she just leaves and Cordelia says, 'You tried to kill her; she's not coming back.' That just worked.'

In 'Five by Five', Faith comes to Los Angeles and is hired by Wolfram and Hart to kill Angel, which she attempts to do after torturing Wesley. In the end, however, Faith is dealing with bigger issues, and it all culminatesafter a street fightwith her collapsing in Angel's arms, crying.

Offers Minear, 'We knew we wanted to bring Faith back, and I think the episode works on all cylinders. Here's an interesting behind the scenes item: The writer, Jim Kouf, writes big feature films, and sometimes he writes scenes that are not producible for a TV show because he is used to working with much more money. So he wrote this big, huge fight at the end that you actually get to see because we shot it. But he wrote it to take place in the rain, and we decided that we can't afford the rain. It was going to be too much material to shoot and that's going to be one extra technical complication that's going to make it impossible. So we cut the rain from the script. If you notice, the big fight at the end, when Faith collapses in Angel's arms, it's in the rain. That is because it actually rained. It poured while we were shooting. It was the first night of a big torrential rain storm that we had for several days. It started that night, on the set of Angel, while Angel and Faith were fighting.'

In 'Sanctuary' Faith starts the rehabilitation process, not made easy by the arrival of Buffy and a militant group of Watchers determined to capture her. 'Basically we had a terrible time breaking that story,' Minear explains, 'because it was Faith as we had never seen her before. It was sort of easy when it was evil Faith, which was a lot of fun. The problem was trying to make her turn realistic, and also we had all of these different characters to service. Actually, I only had a couple of days to write it. Finally, when I got to the Buffy and Angel stuff I got a little concerned, because I had never written Buffy before. So I went to Joss and I said, 'Maybe you could take a crack at these scenes, because that would be very helpful to me,' and he absolutely had no problem doing that. After he wrote the scenes I suggested that we share credit on the script, which we did. Production actually went smoothly.'

'War Zone' brings Angel into contact with Gunn, part of a street gang that spends its evenings hunting vampires. In the end, Gunn and Angel form an uneasy alliance. Reflects Minear, 'The things that I remember liking the most about that episode was once again taking the action hero and turning it on its head a little bit, with Angel trying to break out of the meat locker he was trapped in, Wesley and Cordy showing up, opening the door and saying, 'Why didn't you call us on your cell phone?' That was fun. I also sort of like the notion that there's this entire subculture living under Los Angeles that you don't really see. That's kind of how LA is, anyway. You'll have upper class neighborhoods and a block away poverty. It's like shoulder to shoulder in the city. Somehow it exists like that. The upper class people sort of don't notice the poverty, or choose not to. I think the episode had a lot of LA-ness about it, which I liked. Of course, I love Gunn.

'The idea behind Gunn,' he adds, 'is that Gary Campbell, a freelancer, came in and pitched the idea of these street kids battling vampires and nobody notices. That was sort of the genesis of that idea. I know that Joss wanted to introduce another guy who would be very different from Wesley and also different from Angel. I think the defining moment in that is the ending when you expect Angel to be all big brotherly and say, 'I'm here to help,' but really what he's saying is, 'I may need your help.' I thought the action was cool, too. In a way, it was one of the more comic booky feeling episode.

Although 'Blind Date' and 'To Shanshu in LA' each have their own issues to deal with, the continuing theme is a detailed exploration of Wolfram and Hart, establishing the power base there and laying the groundwork for Season Two. Additionally, tensions between Angel and Kate heat up, and the year concludes with Darla miraculously being restored to undead life.

'Bringing the tensions between Kate and Angel to a head is really good,' he says. 'I like the way Kate has turned out. I think it's interesting that she's not just his cop-lady. For a while it will stay adversarial, which is more interesting. If you can understand her, she can really become his adversary. Not like a moustache-twirling character. I also love the Darla revelation, and I think it's nice we've been laying the groundwork for that all year without actually intending to. The flashbacks throughout the season were there to tell us more about Angel, but at the end of the day we've told you who Darla was. When she appears in that box we understand what it means. I think that's going to be some fertile ground for some interesting stories in year two.'

As to other directions in the new year, Minear ain't talking, although it's pretty well known that Gunn becomes a regular character. 'He's not going to start living with everybody, at least not right away,' he says. 'I think Gunn is a character that shoots from the hip. I think he's a little bit hardened by his experience, and he doesn't have any sympathy for victims. There's an interesting sort of Wesley-Gunn dynamic there, where Gunn doesn't have sympathy for people feeling sorry for themselves and Wesley has no sympathy for bullies. So maybe there could be some tension there.'

Any other clues? 'Not really,' he laughs. 'I think we're going in the right direction and we should make the show better and better.'

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