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ANGEL: Season One, Episode By Episode with Tim Minear
The supervising producer begins taking Fandom on a personal tour of all 22 episodes.
By Edward Gross
August 14, 2000
Fairly early on in its first season, ANGEL proved itself to be a series that could stand apart from its progenitor, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. In the following interview, supervising producer Tim Minear begins taking FANDOM on a personal tour through all 22 episodes.
ANGEL's debut season began with 'City of....,' which quickly brings Angel together with the half-human/half-demon Doyle and aspiring actress Cordelia Chase. In the opener, the newly-formed team goes up against a vampire named Russell Winters, who is preying on wannabe actresses. Angel tries to protect one young woman (shockingly, he fails at doing so) and must save Cordelia.
'The thing that comes to mind about that episode,' offers Minear, 'and I know it was a seminal moment for both Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt, was the fact that Angel does not
save the girl. There's this big twist where she actually ends up dying like two-thirds of the way through the story. I think that set the tone for the show. Anything
can happen on ANGEL.'
As Minear relates it, there was an intriguing moment written into the script that was actually filmed, but ultimately cut. 'Angel goes in,' he says, 'finds her dead body, cradles her and sees her blood on his hand. He lifts his hand and, I think, he actually puts his finger in his mouth. Originally, that was, for Joss and David, the point of the episode; that this guy is really on the edge. He's struggling. But that moment just didn't work, and we ended up cutting it from the episode. It was dark enough that he didn't save this girl. I don't think you needed him licking her dead body. It was very cool, but that's often what happens. The thing that you thought was the point of the story, ends up excised at the end. You try desperately to save it, but it just isn't right for the show.'
'Lonely Hearts' pits Angel against a slug-like creature that is moving from human host to human host, all set against the dating scene in LA. In terms of ANGEL, it was significant for the series because it brought Angel together with Detective Kate Lockley, who would share something of a friend-enemy relationship throughout the rest of the year.
'David Fury, who wrote this episode, had written a script called 'Corrupt' in which Kate was a police officer working undercover as a prostitute who was actually becoming a prostitute and was addicted to crack. That
was originally the introduction of Kate. Obviously we were still trying to figure out what the show was at that point. This was the first episode after the pilot, and it was written before the new staff arrived. They just went incredibly dark with this thing and decided at the end of the day that it was a little bit too hopeless, a little too grim. After that episode was written it was actually being prepped when the network, too, had some concerns about it.'
It would seem that this was about the same time that the Internet ran rampant with rumors that the WB had shut down the show for retooling. 'You can't really call it a shut down because we hadn't really started,' Minear clarifies. 'We just pushed back the shoot date for the first episode a week or two. It's not like alarms went off and we had to pull plugs on everything. I've read on the Internet where people were saying the network freaked, and they told us to shut down, and that's not true at all. We were still creating what the idea of the show was going to be, and basically we decided to rethink that first episode. The other thing that people don't realize is that a lot of the other episodes that we've done this year were written much earlier and did not change significantly. It was really that first episode where we went back, rethought it, and we were lucky we had the luxury to do that.'
'In the Dark' was the first crossover episode between BUFFY and ANGEL. Oz arrives with a mystical ring that renders vampires invulnerable, and he is unaware that Spike has followed him from Sunnydale to Los Angeles in pursuit of it. It all culminates in a battle between Angel and Spike, with Angel destroying the ring after spending a day in the sunlight. To many, it was a lunkhead move that seemed reminiscent of Gloria Stuart throwing the priceless diamond into the ocean at the end of TITANIC. Minear, for his part, would like you see the situation otherwise.
'That's not the problem I have with the ending of TITANIC,' he says. 'My problem with the ending of TITANIC is that she throws it in the water as if that means something about Jack [Leonardo DiCaprio]. It's got nothing to do with Jack. It was the other guy's diamond, and I have no idea why she's throwing it in the water. But in this episode, it makes perfect sense for him to destroy the ring. Can he be trusted? That
is the point of the series. If he has the power to be invincible, what would happen if he spent eternity as Angelus? It's too dangerous. Is there any other vampire in the history of the Jossverse that has a soul? No, so the only person that could possibly
wear that ring would be Angel, and Angel knows that he can't be trusted. Think about Jenny Calendar. In that light, the ending makes perfect sense to me.'
'I Fall to Pieces' is an episode that could have just as easily fit on THE X-FILES as it does on ANGEL, telling the story of a woman being stalked by a guy who can temporarily separate his body parts and will them to move on their own.
'As an early episode,' Minear explains, 'you can see where we thought the show was originally going to go, which was in the direction of an anthology with the client of the week, and the emotional stakes would be with the guest character. Sort of like THE FUGITIVE. I think it's a perfectly workmanlike episode with some really cool things in it, but I also think that since then we've moved away from that kind of story. We have decided that the emotional action is with our
people. You can have an interesting plot and an interesting client, but it's difficult to create sympathy for someone you're introducing for one episode.
'The episode 'Eternity' is a perfect example. Initially that started off as the same kind of episode. This actress had a problem and it was dealt with from her point of view. But if you look at how the episode ended up, it's really about our core people, and by the end of the episode the client's gone. There's not even a wrap up scene at the end with the actress. It's all about Angel being chained to the bed and Cordelia not untying him. It just sort of naturally went there. If that episode had gone before the cameras earlier in the rotation, I think you would have probably seen a different ending, with more emphasis placed on the actress and her problem than on Angel. I know I'm tripping ahead here, but originally on 'Eternity' the way the story broke is that it was really about this actress. And the entire second half of the story was still
about this actress. Joss came in one day and said, 'You know what? This is wrong. What needs to happen is Angel needs to go bad.' Suddenly that
element was added to it, and now that's what that episode was absolutely about.'
'Room w/a View' focuses squarely on Cordelia's quest to get back some self-esteem, beginning with her signing a lease for a new apartment. What she, Angel and Doyle don't realize, however, is that the apartment is haunted, and the former tenant will do whatever it takes to chase Cordelia away.
'The ever wonderful Jane Espenson wrote this episode,' enthuses Minear. 'It was really all about Cordelia regaining her inner bitch. I remember that was what we were saying in the [writing] room. The funny thing about the episode, and this was completely unintentional, was there was a scene where Angel goes to Kate for some police exposition. She makes fun of him for only having one name. She says, 'Popes and rock stars are the guys with one name, not private detectives.' And he says, 'You got me; I'm the Pope.' Later, in 'Somnambulist,' the serial killer has been dubbed 'The Pope' by the tabloids, and Angel thinks it's him. That was completely unintentional. I remember running into Jane and saying, 'I've been working on the cut of 'Somnambulist', and do you realize that there was something in your episode that completely resonates in this episode?' It was just a happy coincidence that worked out wonderfully for the show.'
'Sense and Sensitivity' brings the law firm of Wolfram and Hart back to center stage, as the firmin order to facilitate the release of one of their clientsmanages a spell that brings everyone's emotions at the police precinct to the forefront. The episode was Minear's second effort for the show, although 'Somnambulist' would go into production later on.
'The way it worked,' he says, 'is that each new writer wrote an episode and put it in the 'bank' so that we could draw on it later when we knew that things were going to get tight. 'Sense and Sensitivity' was the first thing that I actually pitched to Joss, my idea being that I wanted to deal with sensitivity and cops, and cops who become so sensitive that they can't do their jobs. He thought that was a bitchin' idea. It was interesting because we sort of came at it from politically different points of view and what you end up getting is something far more interesting than what I had originally pitched. Instead of just super sensitive cops, you have people whose emotions are completely on the surface, so it goes from anger to sensitivity. They're just hyper-sensitive. The thing that was at the kernel of that idea was seeing Angel get sensitive. Just the idea of him feeling that Doyle and Cordelia judge him when he vampsmoments like thosewere the reason that the script was written. The thing that I love about that episodethere's a lot of things I don't love about itis the ending, which was totally Joss.'
Minear is referring to a final moment between Kate and her father. Earlier in the episode, at a so-called 'police bar', Kate announces to anyone who will listen that she has spent her whole life wanting her father to accept her for who she is and simply love her as his daughter. Just before the show ends the two come together at her apartment.
'Joss' idea,' says Minear, 'was that the father comes in and hasn't changed as a result of what happened. Nothing
has changed. I think that really worked for the fans, too. The way I wrote it was that he would walk up and there would be this big TV ending where they hug, and instead he just says, 'Don't ever mention it again,' and he turns around and walks away. If it had gone the other way, I think the whole thing would have collapsed. That's really Joss knowing best.'
Minear's biggest complaint about the episode is the casting of mobster Little Tony. 'I think that the mobster guy could have been more dangerous,' he offers. 'We sort of went in a clichéd kind of way with it in terms of the casting. I thought the actor was very good, and I don't want to lay this at his feet, but I think it would have been more interesting if we had cast someone who was a super cold, super cool killer, instead of this SOPRANOS knock off thing that we did.'