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April 16 2007

Chief Seattle "Angel" - indepth character analysis. Fascinating character analysis of Angel. Website also includes in-depth reviews of every episode and every season.

I have now completed reviews of all 110 episodes of the series. - Chief Seattle

This guy is a genius. I think I have a few months of fascinating reading material ahead. Thanks so much for posting the link, and massive thanks to Chief Seattle - these writings are amazing, they really delve into the psychological and thematic depth of the series like nothing I've ever seen.
What a find! I've been looking for something like this for ages now. Kudos Chief Seattle - fascinating reading. Thanks for posting the link angeliclestat, you've made me a happy camper.
I've just read reviews for the first four episodes of Angel. I really can't sing the praises for ChiefS enough. Buffy has received considerable attention of TV academics which is great and all, but Angel has mostly been (relatively) neglected.

What I really like about these reviews is that it really feels like ChiefS is bringing a whole new understanding of the episode and yet really is only reviewing what is already there. I think he manages to effectively deconstruct the writing process and find out the metaphor of each episode and it's significance for the psychology of each character. I find this really interesting because the metaphor that Mutant Enemy were going for in Angel episodes was more subtle than the earlier Buffy episodes.

I hope that he goes on to write a character analysis of Wesley. It should make for a great read.

Btw you can find links to all the episodes from this "Contents" page
(sheepishly deletes accidental double-post)

[ edited by Dalton on 2007-04-16 21:57 ]
I agree Dalton. For too long it's seemed as if Buffy were the only Whedon series anyone felt deserved mention or analysis. Thank the GODS that someone has finally decided to give the criminally underappreciated Angel, the better series (in my not-so-humble-opinion).

And I also can't wait for the Wesley analysis.

Angel - the more 'adult' of the Buffyverse shows, in several senses - covered ground that other TV dramas also trod (e.g. compare Season Five to the 'what becomes of individuals in institutions?' dyad of Deadwood and The Wire over on HBO), whereas Buffy more or less stood alone among teen/high-school and college dramas, at least initially. Atop which Angel was less clearly a virtuoso genre-hopping experiment; its first year feels now like a bit of a 'Buffy the hardboiled detective' show, which turned into something much richer over the next couple of years. By the time the show took its boldest narrative steps (Season Four) to mixed success, it'd been around long enough to have lost any shock of the new.

There's a long piece to be written on the particular fan-identification and identity-politics-by-proxy currents in Jossverse scholarship, but you'd have to care a lot about some pretty esoteric bullshit to research it. Easier to stick to the shows, I'd say.

As for this site: I take issue with some of its claims about Angel, and the sometimes-moralizing tone grates after a few pages. Plus I can't help feeling the reading of the character of Angel is actually wrong in a couple of places. In small ways maybe but. But enough quibbling: it's a lot of hard work, sincerely undertaken, and bravo on that score anyhow.
Umm... I'm not really sure what your point is, but you certainly make it well. ;)

I understand that Buffy gets a lot of cred for being first, and for being so unique amongst genre entertainment. And Angel, I suppose by definition, is less "original". I don't dispute the originality of BtVS. But my own taste favored the story of Angel: The Series (and for the record I WORSHIPPED Deadwood as well.)

Knowing that Buffy came first and drew critical attention early on doesn't make the seeming relative obscurity of the show that I personally feel was "better" (in my opinion only, of course) any easier to swallow.
Thanks for the link, angeliclestat.

And kudos to Chief Seattle for the enormous amount of time and effort obviously spent compiling this material.

And I must mention that I, too suffer from the affliction called 'Can't leave well enough alone syndrome'!

I do feel that as a series, it seems that 'Angel' is regarded as 'Buffy's' poor cousin.

But on the whole, 'Angel' called to me more than 'Buffy'. Perhaps because it aired at a time in my life where 'Angel's' themes of good/evil/redemption/betrayal spoke more to me than 'school is hell.'

And 'Smile Time'? WAYYYYYYY under-rated!
Since the days when BtVS and AtS were on the air, Chief Seattle is one of the first fans I can remember who wrote intelligent criticism about BtVS and Angel online, along with Little Willow, Jengod and a few others. It's been a while since I last checked his site and I didn't realize he'd finally finished reviewing the entire series, so thanks for the head's-up.

While there have been times I've found myself disagreeing with certain of his perspectives on particular characters, his completion of 110 extensive, deeply researched AtS show reviews, and making them available for other fans gratis, displays Whedonist dedication to a degree that's kinda rare (and inspiring to me, personally). Slayage, the online journal of Buffy Studies, appears to hold the corner on academic Buffy/Angel scholarship these days, but anyone who helps perpetuate interest in Joss's work -- especially when, in the case of Angel, it's tended to be overlooked and underrated by comparison to its televisual progenitrix -- is still rendering the 'verse (and new fans who are seeking accessible information of a broader variety than thematic/topic-focused scholarship) a valuable service.

Back in the day on the Angel's Soul spoiler board, we always looked forward to ChiefS's announcement of a new review because it was guaranteed to provoke discussion that went on for days -- long before there were conventions and online journals and college classes that celebrated this stuff. Just thought the old school should get some props ;)
I think Buffy went far beyond the theme of "school is hell" personally. I'd also dispute the common statement that Angel was the darker, more adult of the two shows. I'd call them about equal in that regard.

I do look forward to reading the reviews, though. Always a favorite pastime of mine, and an in-depth analysis of Angel is long over-due. Maybe he'll be able to reconcile me with what the writers did to Cordy in Seasons 3 and 4, who knows.

[ edited by shambleau on 2007-04-17 09:34 ]
Well, Angel killed humans (and was still a 'good-guy' afterwards, unlike Faith), he deliberately set people up to be endangered for the sake of his mission, he tried to murder Wesley, he would have killed Lilah (also human) if it was necessary (or even just for revenge) and ultimately he asked his crew to (as far as they knew) sacrifice themselves in battle in a war he admitted they could never win.

To me that makes the show darker and, because Angel completely embraced moral ambiguity and complexity and asked the age old question about the means justifying the ends and the utility of 'evil' acts, also more adult. Buffy was just as emotionally complex but, for the most part, morally quite black and white (as befits a show about growing up, when all that stuff seemed comparatively simple). Mileage varies though ;).

Doubt i'll agree with everything ChiefS says but that is a massive and impressive piece of work, well done him.
What shambleau said, squared. IMO .... big emphasis there, not my intention to offend anyone .... the idea that AtS was "darker" than BtS just doesn't hold water. And the "school is hell" as only the "tip of the metaphor iceberg" has been well established.

But I bookmarked the site and look forward to reading the reviews when I have time, because I do agree that we have not been treated to much in the way of in-depth fan reviews of AtS, compared to BtS. But I would submit that, rather than BtS having the "new and unique" factor going on, it was simply a much deeper and more complex series.
Well, what I said cubed then. And times infinity. Plus one.


(OK, agreed just personal opinions but seriously though, imagine Buffy's speech in 'Chosen' being more like "We're all probably going to die. And even if we don't we can't really win this battle. And even if we do, we categorically can't win the war. Ever.", kind of off tone, surely ? Still, agreed, Buffy also had a lot of darkness but IMO it wasn't about the darkness whereas Angel basically was. Buffy had a light at the end of the tunnel, Angel just had more darkness - or possibly an oncoming train ;)
Saje, I think our original posts went up almost simultaneously, Yours wasn't up when I was typing mine but it was there when mine posted. So my comments weren't aimed at your post specifically :)
At any rate I think maybe my case is more for complexity of characterization, in spite of the youth of the characters on BtS. And more about the respective entire seven/five year "journey" of the characters in the courses of the two series, rather than just the endings. If it were just about how each series ended, AtS would win the "darker" award hands down.
Heh, no worries ;).

I don't disagree that Buffy has equally complex characterisation (in some cases, not all, just as some of Angel's characters are more complex than others) but I think we have to agree to disagree on the 'more' aspect.

And on the darkness, well, I mentioned a few examples not from NFA but how about the fact that Angel's very first attempt to help the helpless (in 'City of') ends in failure, with the death of Tina ? Or Lindsay's hand. Or leaving the lawyers locked in with Darla and Dru. Or burning Darla and Dru. So, again, with the agreeing to disagree ;).

(just to be clear, BTW, I don't consider Buffy to be a lesser show because it's, IMO, less dark or even less adult, it's just different - in fact, Buffy's fundamental optimism is one of the things I like about it most and to me disliking it - or liking it less - for not being as dark as Angel is a bit like denigrating 'Heroes' because it has fewer doctors than 'House')
To see why thematically AtS is the darker sibling, you just need to consider the AtS origins and the the BtVS origins. BtVS was about a young woman who would go into the dark alley and kick monster ass. The first teaser of AtS featured the title character saving a woman in an alleyway from monsters, but then freaking out and shouting "Stay away from me" because a part of him wanted to eat the women himself.

"Rhonda the Immortal Waitress was really the first incarnation of [the Buffy concept], just the idea of some woman who seems to be completely insignificant who turns out to be extraordinary.... The very first mission statement of the show [is] the joy of female power: having it, using it, sharing it... They said, 'Do you want to do a show?' And I thought, 'High school as a horror movie.' And so the metaphor became the central concept behind Buffy, and that's how I sold it." - Joss

"[For AtS] we wanted a much darker show, darker in tone. It is set in Los Angeles because there are a lot of demons in L.A. and a wealth of stories to be told. We also wanted to take the show a little older and have the characters deal with demons in a much different way. Buffy is always the underdog trying to save the world, but Angel is looking for redemption. It's those two things that creatively make the shows different." - Joss

Buffy was on a journey to learn how to use and appreciate a power she had been given. Sure she occasionally misused that power and made mistakes but ultimately this led to a more optimistic tone for the show. Think about the way the series finishes with Buffy smiling thinking about the future, and Willow, Xander, Giles and Dawn still aside her.

In contrast Angel's journey is a long and hard one for redemption because he spent centuries performing unspeeakable acts of evil. Worse still, he knows that his actions as a vampire were informed by his personality as a human (e.g. Doppelgangland when he tries to tell Willow this) - his lack of self belief in himself (fueled by his father's belief he would amount to nothing) resulted in a vampire that built a reputation as one of the most evil vampires ever. The last moments of his series feature him in a fight he expects to lose - having already lost Doyle, Cordy and Wesley on the mission. I gotta say I think Whedon's aim to create a spin-off show which had a "darker tone" succeeded.
Wow- who opened THIS particular can of worms??!?

I certainly didn't mean to be flippant with the 'school is hell' metaphor, though it is one that has been commonly mentioned by producers and Joss himself in the past.
It's kinda hard for someone as waffly as me to fit into one sentence what has taken authors and scholars volumes to even begin to dissect.
The gist was- I give 'Buffy' 10/10, and 'Angel' 11/10. (Wow, see, I CAN be succinct!)

Certainly, Buffy had it's dark moments- notably in later seasons. But with Buffy, I always knew she would move into the light.
I was never quite sure which way Angel would go- and I loved it.

As has been stated above, I wonder if your personal particular leaning towards any one fandom can be placed squarely on your history/viewing habits/mental acuity? Has anyone examined this in the past?

Dare I even begin to bring 'Firefly' into the equation?!?

DO I ask too many questions???!?

Well, it'd surely be related to history and viewing habits but i'm pretty unconvinced about mental acuity (except that anyone that doesn't like what I like is obviously dumb. Um, kidding ;-).

I think the reason I may (narrowly) prefer Angel is just that i've always read and enjoyed detective fiction, especially noir and Angel at least started out as a noir show. He's also in some ways a grander character than Buffy, more in the romantic lone hero tradition and definitely more archetypal which might also be part of it (hopefully Joss has gone some way to creating an archetype in Buffy but you can't really subvert an entire genre and claim your central character was an archetype all along at the same time, seems a bit contradictory).

And maybe because on the face of it Angel was a more traditional, less original show, it seemed more transgressive at times (I remember thinking when I saw 'Reprise'/'Epiphany', "You sneaky bastards, you've gone and written a deeply existential show that looks exactly like a straightforward fantasy/detective adventure programme". It really did seem at times as if it'd 'tricked' its way onto mainstream TV).
Well, my emphasis in the comment above would've been more on the "adult' part rather than the "darker " part if I knew how to use italics. Maybe I should read the FAQ or something, huh?
Still, Joss' mission statement notwithstanding, let me give some examples that seem equally dark from Buffy.

To begin with, all of Angel's "darker" deeds may only have taken place in the mind of a schizophrenic girl in a mental hospital. It's true most viewers, some of them in a very pissed off way, have chosen to dismiss Normal Again's final scene. Maybe that's because it's so, you know, dark? I've read writers' comments saying that they leave the interpretation of the episode to the viewers, and it's certainly possible to take it either way. But it's that ambiguity that's the hallmark of a dark, adult drama.

As for Angel killing people, Buffy killed some of the KoB, only missed killing Faith through no fault of her own, threw the seemingly human Doc off the tower, and "killed" Ted. Though the show had outs for Buffy with Faith and Ted, the potential was shown to be there. And this was for a teen-age girl, not someone with a demon inside him.

She was also capable of tossing four inexperienced girls in with a vampire and taking the chance that they'd all die just to toughen them up. She tortured a vampire by ramming a cross down her throat. She was ready to let the ENTIRE WORLD go to hell to save her sister. I think that's the equal of Angel setting people up for the sake of his mission, myself. Oh, another one I just thought of, the people who died needlessly in the attack on the vineyard because Buffy made an angry impetuous decision to take on Caleb and continued through with it against all advice.

Yes, Angel thought he was in a losing battle in NFA, but did Buffy think she was going to win in The Gift? You couldn't tell it by her anti-St Crispin's day speech. Additionally, up until the last two episodes in S7, she thought they were going to lose to the First, in which case, her speech to the Potentials would have been the same as Angel's to the Fang Gang. And from Gingerbread onward, after the conversation with Angel, Buffy was aware that she was in an unwinnable war, no matter how many battles she might win individually.

Moving on, Angel wasn't the only one who didn't always save people. They range from Theresa to Cassie to the people, including Jenny Calendar, who were killed by Angelus because Buffy was unable to steel herself to take him out.

There were betrayals that I consider to be up there with what Wes and Gunn did. By Jenny Calendar, by Faith, by Buffy's trusted father figure - twice. There were lesser betrayals, too, such as Oz's betrayal of Willow with Veruca, and Willow's mindwiping of Tara.

Oh yeah, then there's Willow skinning Warren alive.

If all this is a sign of a show that's morally black and white, I'm color blind.

I'm not trying to lessen Angel's darkness by all this, but it just seems to me that there is darkness enough to go around and that if you're drawn to Angel because it's the darker show, you weren't looking hard enough at Buffy.

[ edited by shambleau on 2007-04-17 19:17 ]

[ edited by shambleau on 2007-04-17 19:19 ]
Glad you all like the Chief's website. I have been a huge fan of his since the days of the Angel's Soul Spoiler board - heya Wiseblood :)

I have bought every single piece of Angel academia there is out there to buy - and the Chief's reviews are still the best that I have read. Yes not every one may agree with him on every point, but isn't that the great thing about these type of 'literary' critiques?

I can't believe that he hasn't released them as a book format, because I think that every Angel fan would love to have something as intelligent and as comprehensive as his reviews and critiques on their bookshelves.

If there are any other websites like this online for Angel, I for one would love to know.

Happy reading all!
I *so* wish this hadn't fallen off the main page so soon. Probably no one will read this but I feel compelled to write it anyhow, so I will.(Can't figure out the "how too" page, so no italics or quotes. I must be lacking in mental acuity). And yes missb,I was offended by the inference that those of us who believe that BtS was the better, deeper show are lacking in mental acuity. I'm not sure about the "as has been stated above" reference, apparently you're referring to the statement by waxbanks about the "fan identification and identity politics by proxy currents in jossverse scholarship". And for the record, there's certainly nothing offensive in that reference, waxbanks, it's a fascinating subject and one in which I'm fairly well versed. Being big with the mental acuity as I am.

shambleau, you once again said it at least as well as I could have, had I gotten here first:) I think the bottom line regarding which show you prefer may be whether you prefer a character driven long term narrative (BtS) or one that is story driven (AtS). And even that is I'm sure up for debate, even likely by some of the writers. So don't waste your time searching out the quotes guys, this is just IMO.
Another reason I prefer BtS is a purely personal preference. Angel is my least favorite of all the jossverse characters. (Not going into Firefly/Serenity here, too many apples and oranges would spill out of that basket). And my other least favorite character is Cordelia, so take it from there.
IMO the saving grace of AtS season one was the crossover factor. The first truly great eps were In The Dark, Five By Five and Sanctuary. I'm not including I Will Remember You because the Buffy/Angel relationship never worked for me except as a "high school first love" thing for Buffy.
Angel (the character) was IMO the least complex and least sympathetic of any of the main characters in this particular 'verse. And the thing is, in case anyone is getting the wrong idea, I loved the show AtS. Loved it *in spite of* my basic lack of deep feelings one way or another about the leading character. My love for this show was maintained an a regular basis by Wesley, and by a couple of the more minor characters (Lindsey and Lilah). And by the continuation of the "crossover from the Buuffyverse" factor.
The story arc that brought Darla back into the mix allowed the show to move into territory that gave it the depth it needed, made it more than a pseudo-noir detective story featuring a vampire. Seasons two and three, and the first third of season four, were about as good as it gets on TV.
I have mixed feelings about season five, even though Spike is far and away my favorite character or either show. It isn't that he was used as a foil for the main character, that was always his role on BtS, although the character was constantly changing. But Buffy was in every way worthy of Spike's "side kick" status, whether as mortal enemy, lover (um, feeling the dark side here?) or that complex season seven relationship that was all about forgiveness and the journey of atonement and redemption, for
*both* characters, that delved so much deeper into those themes than anything on AtS ever did.
In fact, I would make a case for the demise of AtS being directly related to bringing Spike into the mix. It's one thing for your lead male character to be overshadowed by *one* supporting character (Wesley), but when you bring in a co-lead who is *also* a far more compelling, complex, powerful, charismatic and fascinating character than your lead, you may well have signed your own death warrant.
OK, I feel better now:) No offense meant to anyone, I'm a frustrated wannabe film/TV critic, so I can't resist this stuff.
If all this is a sign of a show that's morally black and white, I'm color blind.

Well, if you were black/white colour blind I think you'd have a pretty big problem shambleau ;).

Yep, those are all valid times when Buffy portrayed dark events BUT by moral complexity I mean, what are the consequences of being dark ? Jenny Calendar's betrayal - she's ostracised, Oz with Veruca (not really that dark IMO but) - Oz is clearly in the wrong/arguably 'unable' to control himself, Willow skins Warren - Willow is categorically bad and seen to be for doing so, Buffy 'kills' Ted - Buffy is seen as having abused her abilities (no-matter how much Ted had it coming) and, had he been an actual man who was actually dead, would've gone to prison, Faith kills the Mayor's aide - Faith therefore goes to the dark side.

One of the few times there wasn't a clear moral judgement of an 'evil' doer in the text was when Buffy tries to kill Faith (albeit for noble - if selfish - reasons), IMO that was genuinely dark and morally ambiguous.

Angel on the other hand, kills people and sets them up to be killed, often with impunity. When he chops Lindsay's hand off, he's unquestionably the hero, likewise when he (rather messily) kills the 'SWAT' guy in S5. The gang may have thought him attempting to murder long time friend and ally Wesley was 'a bit much' but did anyone actually blame him for his actions ?

In fairness, I started down the whole 'list dark things' path but, to me, if you look at the underlying ethos of the shows it's hard to escape Angel being darker. Buffy, if it's about one single thing, is IMO about empowerment i.e. a net gain. Angel (same disclaimer) is about redemption which is basically 'getting back to zero after doing a lot of bad stuff' i.e. no net gain. And in fact by the end both Angel and Spike come to realise that they'll never be 'in credit', never actually be redeemed that the very best they can do is keep fighting the fight.

As i've said before Buffy is about what happens at the end of adolescence i.e. adult life with all it's amazing possibilities (and, yes, dangers) whereas Angel is all about what you do once you're there, what's a good life and ultimately, what's worth dying for. The end of adulthood isn't a long, sunny road of endless possibilities, it's a dark, rainy alleyway facing an enemy you can never truly defeat (or maybe only metaphorically, by the act of trying) i.e. the big D, the end of all, death. That, to me, is darker. YMMV ;).

Also, no offence to anyone but i'm really not that keen on pitting the shows against each other (though i'm happy to read folk's justifications for their opinions shey ;) because I love them both. I prefer Angel to Buffy for the reasons given above (none of which, note, were "because it's darker") and at least partly because I think it's more or less impossible to like two different things absolutely equally but i'd be much poorer for the loss of either one and in a 'Desert Island DVDs' situation i'd have a hell of a time picking.
I also love both shows and am not trying to say that Angel being darker makes it better. i'm just pointing out that it really is the darker of the two.

I don't think anyone here would argue BtVS was morally black and white - one of the few characters who saw the world completely in these terms (Riley) didn't really fit into the show very easily. However AtS was relatively darker in tone - it was designed to have a darker tone from the beginning. In fact in the first few episodes it was originally so dark in tone that the network asked them to lighten it up a bit - originally Angel was supposed to have tasted some of Tina's blood in "City Of", and originally Kate Lockley was supposed to be an undercover prostitute addicted to drugs in the unaired script "Corrupt". Some of the darkest bits of BtVS were Buffy trying to kill Faith in GD2, Giles killing Ben in "The Gift", and much of Season 6. Of course BtVS has many moments of darkness, but in AtS these are more common and more intense. And it is dictated by the nature the of the series concepts that Angel would inevitably have the darker tone of the two.

Another way to compare the tone: Two English watchers: Giles, starts from a place of darkness in his youth, but learns to mostly control his darker impulses. He sacrifices things in his life such as friends (of the same age) and family but because of that he is able to successfully mentor one of the most effective Slayers to have lived. I consider this arc considerably more optimistic and hopeful than Wesley's arc. Wesley joins the good fight in Sunnydale believing his intellect and knowledge can make a difference. This makes him somewhat pompous, but this is gradually worn down by events. Later he trys to act for the greater good and save Angel's child but ultimately has his throat slit and is abandoned by Angel and co. By the end of the series he is a shell of a man confused about the grey moral areas he has felt forced into, devastated by the death of his loved one, and truly lacking anything to live for.

And on a smaller scale compare the mini-arcs of the two snitches, Willy the Snitch and Merl. Can anyone ever imagine Buffy casually dunking Willy the Snitch in water the way Angel did to Merl?

[ edited by Dalton on 2007-04-18 12:31 ]
Re. the desert island scenario, I'd obviously pick BtS, but it would break my heart to have to choose. I love AtS that much, in case that isn't clear :) I think this started out as a discussion of "darker' but ended up more about moral ambiguity and redemption, and on that score, I have to stand by my choice of BtS. Although those were obviously the major themes of both shows, I see the metaphor in BtS as overshadowing the literal "high school/college" age issues to a degree that the age factor becomes basically meaningless.
This is a complete "from memory" paraphrasing but I think that James Marsters said it best at a con Q&A several years ago. He was asked why he thought there were so many middle aged fans of a show (BtS) about people so young. His answer was to the effect that the metaphor of "growing up" was handled so well, with such a multi-layered sub-text, that it applied more to the "growth" that we all, as human beings, experience throughout our lives. Which is how I related to it. *Still* relate to it, since I'm constantly getting bored with most current TV fare and going back to my BtS DVD's. AtS and Firefly as well, just not quite so much. And I've never been one to re-watch shows that much, unless they're created by someone named Joss. They simply never get old.
I'd agree you could say that BtVS could be 'read' as being about the "growth" we experience as humans. But to some extent that led to an optimism even in the face of adversity - it was about these characters learning how to best use their power. Sure in it's later years BtVS increasingly dabbled with themes of atonement and redemption particularly with characters such as Willow, Andrew, Anya, Faith and Spike. But AtS was about coming to terms with the bad and was created specifically to deal with these themes in practically every episode through the entire supporting cast and more importantly through it's title character. I'd love to demonstrate this but ChiefS does it so much better than I ever could in his reviews of how each episode was approaching these themes.
Saje, yeah, a while after I wrote that color blind thing, I realized how dumb it was, but I'd already edited twice, and I figured no one was going to read it anyway. Damn ;)
Shey: Not to get into the Angel vs Spike, thing but your comments :

*In fact, I would make a case for the demise of AtS being directly related to bringing Spike into the mix. It's one thing for your lead male character to be overshadowed by *one* supporting character (Wesley), but when you bring in a co-lead who is *also* a far more compelling, complex, powerful, charismatic and fascinating character than your lead, you may well have signed your own death warrant.*

I couldn't disagree with you more. I don't think Spike is 'more' compelling etc. as Angel - but *as* compelling maybe. But definatly not more than. With all due respect, the character of Angel would not have gotton his own TV show, or have the fanbase he has with out being all the things you attribute to Spike alone.

Having said that I've never understood how the Spike movie never got made, as he is such a great character and has such a huge fan base - the fickleness of the industry I guess.

But I have to stand up for Angel though, not by dissing Spike - too much of that sort of thing has always gone on - but by saying he *is* a compelling, complex, powerful, charismatic and fascinating character.

And also I think the addition of Spike gave another layer to the character of Angel in the 5th season, and gave us a brilliant storyline between the two of them.

Of course if you don't like Angel (how could you!:)) then that's fine - but I just had to say that.:)
Well, I've got a little free time here, so....

Can I imagine Buffy casually dunking Willie to get information? Lessee, she thinks he has info that would save Dawn, or Willow and he's holding it back? Yep. she'd do it while eating his chicken finger demon special and licking her fingers. I think she'd do it if he had any info she thought was useful, actually.

Now, while I don't think that anyone here is saying that a show about adolescence is ipso facto adolescent in it's concerns (though on other boards, yes they have), this whole thing about BtVS's hopefulness because they're so young comes close. I'm with Shey on the age factor being meaningless. I'd put Buffy's emotional age at about 40 by series end, at least.

But even in the early years, it wasn't just about adolescence, it was about doomed adolescence. Which is to say, it was about death. It's no accident that S2 is basically Romeo and Juliet. We'd seen Buffy die in PG, and Kendra in B1. We saw everybody die in the Wish. We, and Buffy, KNEW part of the way through S3 that she was fighting an unwinnable war which would kill her young, long before she would get to all the "amazing possibilites", where the so-called Good Guys had been using her and thousands of girls before her as expendable cannon fodder.Talk about your dark premises! So, yes, Angel is about being in a dark alley facing the enemy you can't defeat; Death basically. But so was BtVS.

Angel was about what's a good life, what's worth dying for? Look at Buffy's speeches in The Gift, to Giles and Dawn. What else are they all about but that?

I've gotta go for now, so I'll leave it at that, while adding, like everybody else, that I adore Angel and plan to be rewatching it for years.
We're perhaps getting too hypothetical here but the character I understand would be willing to dunk Willy in water but not casually, I'd imagine she would be angry/righteous.. and perhaps other things, but I really can't ever imagine the character doing something like that casually. For example the way she put the cross in the vampires mouth - it was intense it wasn't offhand and casual. The same goes for Wesley shooting one of the worker's in the knee cap in AtS Season 5 - a moment like that could never happen in BtVS.
Yeah, the off-handedness is part of it. In Angel, violence, even against humans, is not always (even often) portrayed as a regrettable necessity, it's par for the course, de rigeur. It's who Angel is.

And yep, it's true, Buffy had dark times and yep, it's also true Buffy was born into a tradition of early death BUT that isn't what happened to her (and nor should it have been). Speaking for myself, I never thought Buffy would 'lose'. Did anyone actually think going in to 'Prophecy Girl', "Oh well, that's the end of her, the prophecy must be fulfilled, Buffy will die, end of." ? It seemed pretty clear she'd come through it. Even in 'The Gift' (at which point in the original run I thought she might actually die for good) Buffy doesn't throw herself to her death at sunset, it's at sunrise, rebirth, a new day, a noble and ultimately successful sacrifice. It's beautiful and noble, it's not, at root, pointless and futile as NFA was (much as NFA was still noble and beautiful in its own way - even, in fact, because it was pointless and futile).

In S5 when Angel makes an autocratic decision to risk (and ultimately lose) innocent lives to further his mission, we see the others support him (when they find out what he's doing). They (and by extension we) see the means as justifying the ends (or even if we don't, it's at least asking the question "Do they ever ?"). In BtVS Buffy tries the same thing and gets kicked out of her own house and stripped of her authority (i.e portrayed as clearly wrong - and on BtVS she was). In BtVS, there are no ends that justify those means, BtVS has the idealistic outlook of youth in that keepin' on to keep on is not an option, we won't be ground down, we won't compromise, we're gonna change the whole damn system ! (and she does, to spectacular effect).

(even in BtVS' very darkest moment IMO, when Giles kills Ben, he does it explicitly because Buffy can't and remain a hero in BtVS' terms. But Angel could - and does)

Also, while I respect people seeing Buffy as being about personal growth at any stage of life, it's, for me, bordering on disingenuous to claim it's not a rites of passage story about a girl becoming a strong, independent young woman. The reason IMO, it's so universally applicable, is because it's about growing up and everyone goes through that (no offence to James Marsters, he's a very talented, sincere bloke but his interpretation is just that, his interpretation, not necessarily better or worse than any other).
Well, even knowing that Joss is on your side on the nobility of what Buffy did, I think he provides more than enough subtext for me to disagree, so I'm gonna stick with the view that Buffy's death can be viewed through a double-lens as both a noble gesture and a quasi-suicide. Her "if everything just gets stripped inexorably away, what's the point?" speech is a speech of despair at the, yes, pointlessness and futility of it all. The reason that any number of people think that her death in The Gift was the "true" ending to Buffy is because it feels just as true to the show as her winning in the end. Maybe even more so. I would have been sad, but wouldn't have felt that the show's premise had been compromised in any way.

And if the show had ended there, as was at one time originally planned, however one felt about the nobility of the thing, it would ultimately have been a futile gesture. The CoW would take the next docile sacrifice in hand and that would have been pretty-damn-grim that. It wouldn't have been emphasized, but teasing out the implications is what we do here.

And I don't think it's disingenuous to think that there are more meanings that can be attached to the story than a simple coming-of-age saga. I don't deny that aspect of it at all, but I do deny it as the only, or even primary way to look at it. Just as Buffy's jump from the tower can be read in several different ways, so can every aspect of her journey.

Also, Buffy wasn't trying the same thing as Angel in any way. He asked the Fang Gang if it was worth their lives to take out the Black Thorn, the Senior Partners' conduit for the Apocalypse and for much of the evil in the world, to throw a monkeywrench in the gears and make Fred's death meaningful, even if it was ultimately futile, because heroes don't accept tbe world as it is. And he was asking a specific group of people who each had good reason to say yes.

Buffy was asking a far more reluctant group to follow her on a hunch that she might find something useful to fight Caleb and the First with. There was no appeal made to them that their probable deaths would make any sacrificial grand gesture, or slow down the earth's coming doom even for a second. And as far as changing the world? Buffy hadn't at that time even formulated the idea that it was possible in the slightest to change the system. Given the previous disaster and the animosities in the group, they revolted, which was perfectly understandable, if wrong. But they didn't do it because they were judging one way or the other on whether the means justify the ends.

My point has always been that there is interwoven into the fabric of BtVs, along with hopefulness and friendship, darkness. It is not always the same kind of darkness as Angel, which can be more casually violent, but these shows were created by the same mind. Just as Scorsese's The Age of Innocence, which is about genteel 19th century New York society, is as brutal in it's own civilized way as his gang sagas, both of Joss's shows take place in the same meaningless universe. Although BtVS ended at a relatively happy place for Buffy, it didn't have to, and if UPN hadn't picked up the show, it wouldn't have.

[ edited by shambleau on 2007-04-19 05:08 ]
Wow, lots of interesting stuff to talk about (sorry if the post's a bit of a monster as a result ;).

And if the show had ended there, as was at one time originally planned ...

That's interesting, the story i've heard was that Joss always intended to continue after S5 (but that there was obviously a danger of being prematurely cancelled). Is that from an interview or something Shambleau ?

The reason that any number of people think that her death in The Gift was the "true" ending to Buffy is because it feels just as true to the show as her winning in the end

See, to me, 'The Gift' was a win. Sure, Buffy died (but then, until her idea in 'Chosen', that's what Slayers always did) but she defeated the big bad, she saved the world. I actually thought at one point (early to mid S7) that she might die in 'Chosen', never thought she'd lose though. Did you ?

Buffy hadn't at that time even formulated the idea that it was possible in the slightest to change the system.

Not sure, what you're getting at here (I wasn't trying to imply that her "idea" in 'Empty Places' was the subversion thing from 'Chosen' - i'm not even sure she had one at that point to be honest).

Given the previous disaster and the animosities in the group, they revolted, which was perfectly understandable, if wrong

Ah, again we disagree but in the same direction this time ;), I don't think it was wrong at all. Buffy's actions as 'General Buffy' had been totally out of character (both for herself and the show), she'd become solemn, callous, autocratic and pompous (all the things she traditionally wasn't, all the things in fact that BtVS had previously subverted at pretty much every opportunity), she categorically needed an intervention (even if they were a bit ham-fisted about it and some of them e.g. the Potentials and Anya had in no way earned the right to treat her how they did).

There was no appeal made to them that their probable deaths would make any sacrificial grand gesture, or slow down the earth's coming doom even for a second.

True, she certainly didn't present her "idea" very well, expecting them just to follow her BUT the fight they were in was for the entire world (not just to throw a spanner in the Senior Partner's works, however briefly) ! If Buffy didn't explicitly state that it was probably because she took it as read they already knew what they were fighting for. In 'Power Play' I think Angel is pretty clear that it's not really about victories (even small, temporary ones) it's more just about saying "Here we stood, defiant". NFA is a beau geste, it's not a fight for the very future of the world.

This isn't a keep-fightin'- the-good-fight kind of deal. Let's be clear. I'm talking about killing every... single...member... of the Black Thorn. We don't walk away from that.

Do we crawl away, at least?

We do this, the senior partners will rain their full wrath. They'll make an example of us. I'm talking full-on hell, not the basic fire-and-brimstone kind we're used to.

We know the drill.

No, you don't. 10-to-1, we're gone when the smoke clears. They will do everything in their power to destroy us. So...I need you to be sure. Power endures. We can't bring down the senior partners, but for one bright, shining moment, we can show them that they don't own us. You need to decide for yourselves if that's worth dying for. I can't order you to do this. I can't do it without you. So we'll vote. As a team. Think about what I'm asking you to do, think about what I'm asking you to give.

Compare that to Buffy's empowering "Here's where you make a choice ..." speech. To me, the way 'Chosen' is presented is not "Well, we won this time but eventually we'll lose and anyway, it's all for nothing" (even if that's actually true), it's presented as being a triumph, as offering new vistas and a chance at freedom (of a sort) for Buffy.

And I don't think it's disingenuous to think that there are more meanings that can be attached to the story than a simple coming-of-age saga.

Nope, me neither, sorry if that's how you understood my comment (though I don't think I said that anywhere, certainly never said 'simple') BUT a lot of my argument rests on that being a perfectly valid reading and since we see Buffy's first love, Buffy's first sexual encounter, Buffy's first proper job, her first meaningful personal bereavement etc. I think it is.

(that was actually more of a response to Shey's point above that "I see the metaphor in BtS as overshadowing the literal "high school/college" age issues to a degree that the age factor becomes basically meaningless." - my emphasis, and I may have misinterpreted what she meant too)

My point has always been that there is interwoven into the fabric of BtVs, along with hopefulness and friendship, darkness.

Yep, I agree with that. My point is that in Angel there is interwoven friendship, darkness, maybe even nobility. Hopefulness ? Not so much. And doesn't less hope mean more dark ?

Ultimately, Shambleau, we're not gonna agree (and that's totally cool with me, even preferable to the alternative;) cos we've both made arbitrary (and totally valid) choices of interpretation. I do think Buffy had events that were as dark as Angel's (you've convinced me of that ;) BUT I still think the underlying feel of BtVS was essentially brighter, more optimistic (it's like 'Stargate: SG-1' which dealt with the end of the world or enslavement of humanity - both kinda dark ;) - on a more or less weekly basis but still kept a smile on its face, was still essentially "can-do" and optimistic).

Maybe it's just down to there being more sun in Sunnydale ;).
What a great discussion!
Angeliclestat, I didn't mean to offend any Angel (the character) fans, it's just my personal opinion, that I find Angel to be the least interesting of any of the major characters on BtS/AtS. I know it's odd, that I love the show AtS but don't care that much for the lead character. That being said, Angel definitely has his moments. I happen to like him best when he's the baddest. The first and pretty much only time on BtS that I found him really interesting was in Passion.
And on AtS, I always liked him best as dark, badass Angel (not Angeleus). As in locking the lawyers in the wine cellar at the end of Reunion, my favorite moment of the entire series. Or setting Darla and Dru on fire. Or telling Lilah "And you're an evil bitch". I'm just not a fan of the "brooding hero" so I had a hard time finding "good" Angel all that interesting or sympathetic. Except when he tried to save Faith. That really rang true for me, I found it very moving.
And seeing as how Spike is my very favorite character on either show, the comparison is inevitable, merely an illustration of the "why' of my preference, that I just don't find Angel to be that complex and compelling, etc, whereas I find Spike to be all that and more adjectives than I can even come up with. I relate so much more to Spike as the one who went off on a quest for his soul, as opposed to Angel, who was cursed with his. I do indeed find that much more compelling, active rather than passive.

Saje, your exact quote: ".... it's for me, bordering on disingenuous to claim that it's *not* a rites of passage story about a girl becoming a strong, independent woman".
I agree, but my interpretation is that it is *in addition*, a metaphor for the growth that we continue to pursue throughout life, the demons we continue to battle, at every stage of life. Maybe I overstated it by saying that I see the metaphor as overshadowing the literal "high school/college age issues to a degree that the age factor becomes basically meaningless". I could have stated that better, I don't see the literal coming of age part of the story as meaningless, but I definitely do see the metaphor that applies to the experience of personal growth, at any age, as *equally* meaningful.
I'm one of those middle aged women who relates to the show not in terms of remembering what it was like at that age, so much as I relate to the metaphor of continuing growth, in the present. And if you've read any of the academic books and articles about the show, you know that this is a consistent theme amongst people my age. You never stop battling the demons, if you're committed to ongoing personal growth.
And I'm not one to argue against the idea that BtS ended on a more "hopeful" note, that I think is pretty obvious. On the other hand, does anyone really believe that the main characters weren't scarred for life from their experiences in the arena of "good vs. evil?". Especially considering that they had all, at one time or another, actually crossed over to the dark side. (Go ahead, ask me for examples :) Just bring me coffee.
Yep, that seems fair enough Shey, I totally agree you can interpret it as general personal growth as well.

For me though a lot of the tragic affectiveness of for instance 'Surprise'/'Innocence' is the complete bewilderment on Buffy's face, the "Why is he doing this ?" because she doesn't know what's meant to happen after that sort of intimacy. Or in 'The Body' where she asks the emergency dispatcher if she should make her Mum warm because she's never dealt with that situation before. So, for me, a lot of the impact in certain scenes comes from the 'firstness' of it.

(that said, the most affecting part of 'The Body' for me is probably Anya asking "Why ?" in her own inimitable style. And she's 18 going on a thousand so 'firsts' can happen at any age, they're obviously not a function of years on Earth but of life experiences)

I agree the characters were probably 'scarred for life', BTW, as we all are by growing (or growing up ;), it's a part of not being dead. I've never denied that Buffy had its darkness, what i've said from the start is that it wasn't about the darkness, it wasn't really about means/ends or morally murky solutions, it was about solving problems by not compromising your principles, by taking a stand, being true. And not compromising at all is a luxury of youth IMO, it doesn't really work in the adult world (as, I think, Angel shows). Or maybe i've just lead a more cynical life ;).

And my high-school days are a fair way behind me too (and weren't much like Buffy and the gang's anyway) so, without reading too many of the academic papers etc., I know where you're coming from on that score ;).
Yeah, Saje, we're not gonna agree, but it's been fun, no? I love this kind of stuff.

Quick final comments on a few of your points:

Couldn't tell you where I'd read that Buffy's jump from the tower was once intended as the final chapter, but yeah, an interview somewhere, I think.

If Buffy's fate in the Gift was a "win" in the sense you're talking about, so was Angel's. Sure, Angel died, but he defeated the Big Bad of the season and averted an apocalypse. (Except, it's looking like he didn't die, which will undercut the darkness of the ending a tad, don't you think? And man am I opposed to anyone surviving that. Grr.) And both "wins" were temporary, and, in the end, futile, as the eternal war goes on.

And sorry, I did think you were saying that Buffy was making her "change the world" appeal in Empty Places, since you mention the appeal at the end of the paragraph discussing the mutiny. A misreading. My bad.

When I said the group was wrong, I meant in the sense that Buffy was right about the vineyard. As for the mutiny,it was going to happen and it should have happened. I agree with you totally on your characterization of Buffy, except for the part where you say her actions were out of character.

Shey's comment that the characters were scarred for life from their experiences in the arena of good vs evil echoes what I feel about the Scoobs. Just as being a soldier in a long-running war or a cop who deals with the worst that humanity has to offer on a day-to-day basis often leads to psychological problems, being a Slayer had been profoundly damaging to Buffy. Her connections with others slowed, but didn't stop, the damage. The hardening of her heart that she was worried about in Intervention didn't go away, it was just obscured for a while by the events in S6. The callousness that's a prominent part of Angel is there in embryonic form in Buffy all along and is manifesting itself more and more in S7, as is her disconnection from others.

Now, I agree that Chosen is a triumphant ending, but it's because Joss figured out a way to subvert what had been, for me, for seven seasons, the grim sub-text of his show. Buffy's slow downward spiral is reversed and that's great, but it wasn't an inherently inevitable ending. I know you see the ending as the epitome of BtVs's innate hopefulness, but I see it as a brilliant, if possibly temporary, departure from the underlying darkness that had always characterized Buffy as much as the surface good humor.

And what I love about the show is that it can support such divergent interpretations. And that's (finally) all I have to say.
Absolutely Shambleau, fun and an eye opener (for me anyway), i'd always assumed Buffy was pretty unanimously seen as the sunnier show. What's the old adage about assuming and asses ? ;)

At risk of the accusation of creeping last wordism (and feel free to not stick to your 'finally' pledge ;):

Sure, Angel died, but he defeated the Big Bad of the season and averted an apocalypse

Err, what apocalypse ? One of the points to me of NFA (or the whole 'end arc' of S5) was, there was no imminent threat to Earth. It was in fact Angel that 'picks a fight'. Sure, the Senior Partners would have continued to do evil and the Black Thorn were aiming for an apocalypse but, y'know, plus ca change, right ? That's what they did anyway and had been since 'City of'. The only way NFA was a "win" to me was that Angel walked the line but, ultimately, kept the faith. He didn't lose sight of the mission, despite the great temptation to do so, to be corrupted by WR&H.

(again, in 'Power Play', he even explicitly says it might upset the SP's plans for the apocalypse "just for a moment". An extra 60-ish seconds before we're all doomed ? Well averted Angel, nice one, ain't you the big hero ;)

Except, it's looking like he didn't die, which will undercut the darkness of the ending a tad, don't you think?

Actually, no ;). The ambiguity makes it dark, the 'no simple resolution' makes it complex. Bizarrely, though I thought Buffy might die but win I also thought Angel might live but lose (or at least not win). No clear winner, no real progress but continuing anyway would be totally in keeping with how I see the Angel ethos. And lest we forget, Buffy it seems is very likely headed to "heaven" when she goes, Angel (with Spike) is pretty definitely headed to eternal damnation. Which, y'know, ouch ;).

I really don't equate dying with defeat (though, you'll be amazed to hear ;), I take the fact Buffy won and survived as yet more evidence for the optimistic BtVS worldview). That said, I don't have much issue with some of them surviving the alley (Gunn surely dies) because I also don't equate merely surviving with categorical victory.

... except for the part where you say her actions were out of character.

Hah ;). But more seriously, really ? The pompous speechifying, the callous disregard for others, the moroseness and lack of quippy wit, the 'brute force', Marshall Haig approach to battles, the lack of connection to those around her, all that seems like Buffy ? Note, NOT who Buffy might have become eventually, NOT who pre-'Grave', in-existential-crisis Buffy was for much of season 6 but the actual Buffy we already know ? I've trouble with that one.

The meta-textual purpose (to me) of Buffy's success getting the scythe was to show that when she acted herself i.e in character, she was more successful (she quips at Caleb to wind him up, she avoids the brute force, head-on approach, she observes - when she sees where he looks at the hatch, she thinks and then, she wins. That to me is much more consistent with the Buffy we've seen in the past seven seasons where she's been much more a flexible guerilla fighter and much less a by-the-book militaristic one - witness how well she got on with the Initiative's rigid hierarchy for instance).

Then in 'Chosen' we see the Scoobs banter about trivia in the face of danger, even with explicit nods back to S1 dialogue. In other words, 'General Buffy' is gone. Once again, as we saw in 'Prophecy Girl', 'The Wish', 'Primeval' etc., the thing that sets Buffy apart, the thing that means she won't have to succumb to the "inevitable" Slayer malaise of disconnection, isolation and early death, is her friends (well, that and her "flexible" approach to procedure ;).

And what I love about the show is that it can support such divergent interpretations.

So very true. How great were these shows ? We may never see their like again and no messing.
My 2 cents: I love BtVS better because it speaks to me and touches my soul more than Ats does. I suspect that is why some others like Ats better. For me the darkness factor only comes into it as a byproduct. I agree Ats is darker because there is a general air of hopelessness that often pervades the show and Angel himself often embraces. In BtVS they are in a battle against the hopelessness. It might be fair to say that Ats is about dealing with the hopelessness and keeping it at bay while BtVS is about defeating it...or maybe not. I haven't thought about it enough, and I should not be thinking about it now.

The thing a do *not* agree with is the oft exressed opinion that Ats is a more adult show. I am another middle aged woman who sees herself in Buffy, not only in High School, but now. Although there are many firsts to deal with that one associates with youth, firsts are dealt with throughout life. The trick is not letting the bad consequences from a first make you withdraw from life. So I see the two shows working together to tell a similar story from different perspectives. Sometimes I think those perspectives are female and male, especially when I look at a friend and her husband and see the approach to life of the two shows personified in front of me. Interestingly enough, we can't get the husband to watch BtVS because it is a "kid's show", but I wonder if he would get into Ats. (Nah, I'm sure she tried.)
Damn but I love discussions like this. I wish I could contribute, but others (Saje in particular) have already said pretty much everything I would have said, only much better. Ta very much. :)

But on the subject of one show being more "adult" than another, however, I don't think anyone should really take that claim seriously. We're all Whedon fans here, and while we obviously have our own personal preferences between the various series, I think we all agree that they're all "adult". I think the initial efforts to identify Angel as the more adult series were likely television marketing shorthand designed specifically to draw in viewers like your friend's husband, newcj. There are large numbers of people that refuse to get into BtVS because of the perception that it is a "kid's show", so WB marketing started selling Angel as the adult version.

It's probably much more accurate (though still not perfect) to describe one show as feminine and the other as masculine. Oversimplification, to be certain. But better than suggesting that one is for kids and the other for grown-ups.
OMG Haunt, I couldn't agree with you more! Which is an almost certain sign that a new apocalypse is nigh :=)
The most fun thing about this very long discussion has been, for me, that I've ended up seeing most every point of view as valid, in one way or another. And therein lies the genius of "Bring your own sub-text" Joss.

And newcji, I think there is a grain of truth to the idea that women relate more to BtS while men relate more to AtS. That has definitely been my experience with the various friends that I've begged and bribed and threatened .... um, "convinced" .... to give both shows a try. But hey, how could we as women not relate so passionately to the first really strong, kick-ass, take charge, funny, multi-layered and deeply flawed female lead in a TV show, ever, age irrelevant.
Whereas the men I know who are really into AtS have a tendency to point to Angel as a role model for "it's OK to be distant and non-communicative". And I'm not going to take that one any farther. Nope, not me .... shutting up now :)
edited for double posting

[ edited by Shey on 2007-04-21 12:21 ]

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