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January 13 2009

The 25 best (and five worst) Angel episodes. Has it really nearly been five years since the show got cancelled?

I find this list to be pretty discriminating overall. There are a few points of disagreement but, in particular, this is the first time I've heard someone else voice my sentiment that season four of Angel was essentially a clunker, lit by a few moments of writing brilliance and Gina Torres.

I'm a little surprised "I fall to pieces" didn't make the list of worst episodes, what with its cheesy effects and pseudo-scientific explanation for its premise. I agree with the placement of the finale at the top of the list, though; really, such an epic-yet-unresolved finish was the only way for Angel to go.
I have to agree with the article about S3 ending and most of the S4, especially the Cordelia parts. The order of the top episodes (besides the #1) would have been different for me though, honestly the ones sticking were the flashbacks with Darla and the ones with Faith, though probably more due to the Buffy connection as I didn't really like the rest of the Angel that much. S1 had promise, S5 delivered, S2-4, mostly meh.

Anyway, how could they leave the worst episode of all whedonverse from the bottom-5 list? I mean the awful Italy episode, The Girl in Question. It would have been a disgrace next to any other episodes in any other seasons, but it stood out even more glaringly with the greatness of S5. That one failure of an episode was just so bad, that even Beer Bad actually looks like a good, well rounded episode compared to it.
Kind of funny how you can love the same show but enjoy it so differently. The end run of season four is my favorite Angel stuff by far, and incredible episodes like The Magic Bullet and Peace Out deserve to be on any best of list. But this guy seems to hate those episodes. Oh well. Still a solid list overall: Lullaby, Sleep Tight, Sanctuary, Not Fade Away, and others are all strong picks.

I've always found A Hole In The World and Smile Time to be overrated, and my favorite ep has been Reunion, pretty much since it aired.

Reading this just makes me miss the show. I still think of it as my least favorite Whedon show, but somehow its inconsistency made it endearing, and when it was good, it was very good indeed.

[ edited by bonzob on 2009-01-13 11:25 ]
Has it been five years already?! Damn! Seems like yesterday. Anyway, here's my picks:

1: Darla
2: Billy
3: Waiting in the Wings
4: Orpheus
5: A Hole in the World

Special thanks to Joss as always!
Reading this is a reminder that I really need to sit down and rewatch Angel (especially since my sister got me the complete series for my birthday). I went through season 4 over the summer (and found it to be better than I remembered, though "Orpheus" and "Spin the Bottle" still stand out as eleventy billion times better than the rest of the season), but where with Buffy I can recite the episode number, plot and subplots of any episode off the top of my head, Angel is a bit fuzzier.

I've always loved "The Girl in Question," personally. The weak points of season 5, for me, come much sooner. "Hell-Bound" (which really just freaked me out, so it probably shouldn't be on my worst list, but it is) and "The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco" just don't cut it for me. Overall, though, I find season 5 to be the best of the best and season 4 to be...the opposite of that.
I liked season 4 or as some wags dubbed it "season 24". Once it got going it was quite the roller coaster ride. Plus it had slo-mo Wes as well (that conquers all :P).

As for individual episodes, "I Will Remember You" and "Reunion" are among my favourites.
I loved season 1/2/3, especially the arc episodes in the second and third. Then the series went downhill in my opinion with the fourth season, to slowly return to form during the fifth season and go out with a bang.

I really liked the more funny episodes this guy hates, like Provider, Double or Nothing. And I also really loved Tommorow. It's interesting that he sites Deep Down as a mayor recovery after Tommorow, while I feel the opposite way (that Deep Down was a deep fall the series never recovered from.)

I would place some arcs at the top of my list: the dark Wes arc in the end of season 3 at the first place, then the baby arc earlier in that season at number 2 and then the Darla arc in season 2 in third position.

Some standalone's that I love are:

Are You Now or Have You Ever Been
City of
Not Fade Away
I've Got You Under My Skin
Waiting in the Wings
Maybe it was because of the lowered expectations based on all the criticism I heard beforehand, but I fell in love with season 4 when I watched it. It's certainly different from the others, but I was entirely hooked by it, more so than any other season of the show. It's the only season I ever watched over a single weekend.

Weirdly though, most of my favourite episodes are found in other seasons. Orpheus, The Magic Bullet, Peace Out, and Home all come to mind as great ones, though I can think of numerous episodes from other seasons that top them.
Season four remains my least favourite season but still has some superb moments. All of "Awakening", for instance, as well as "Orpheus", "Spin the Bottle" and "Home". "A Hole in the World" remains my favourite Angel episode after all these years. It has a number of my favourite scenes and lines that Joss has ever written.
Even with the flack that Season 4 gets (which I do agree with for the most part), many of my favorite episodes are in that season. "Spin The Bottle", "Orpheus", and despite the author's take on it, "The House Always Wins".

Their list was interesting; while I definitely agreed with many entries, I certainly would have changed the order. There's no way in hell "Hero" would only get an honorable mention, and "Smile Time" gets way higher than ten. I did like how they included some entries that I don't think most people consider when they watch the show, like "Somnambulist" and "Deep Down".

And while "She" was a so-so episode, it still holds a place in my heart for the opening. Out of the many scenes in Buffy and Angel, the site of Wesley and Angel dancing is one of the ones to most likely cause extreme hysterical laughter. ;)

I really do have to give the series a rewatch (and add in Buffy as well). Even though I wasn't watching when the series aired, it still seems like such a long time since I've seen everything.

And to further add on to this rambling post, my top five (in no particular order):

1. Smile Time
2. Five By Five
3. Fredless
4. Guise Will Be Guise
5. Hero/Dead End (couldn't decide between the two)
I find any bloggers 'best of' lists to be quite amusing. The list is purely their preference. There is nothing to back up the subjectiveness in art and rather than get angry at their "conclusions" I am choosing to be "amused"

I've got a whole big love for the funnier side of Angel & don't think we could appreciate those moments if it wasn't for the fact that he can get soooo dark.

I'm a lover of season 4 and will have to admit that even though I watched the entire series like 3 times, I've seen season 4 at least 5 times. I love the long-form storytelling and how the established relationships between the gang get completely screwed. Yet (or maybe because of that) 'Spin the Bottle' will make me feel like a 3 year old being tickled to death everytime I watch it. That's not to say that it's the best episode. It's just the one that I watch to feel like I'm 3 years old again. Which is probably oftener than I'll ever admit to.
I guess I'm in the minority in that while I enjoy episodes like Smile Time and Spin The Bottle, in my eyes they aren't even comparable to episodes like Reprise/Epiphany, A Hole In The World, or Sleep Tight.

[ edited by Racoon Boy on 2009-01-13 13:29 ]
I was never drawn to Angel like I was to Buffy, but certainly my favorite episode the Angel series was "Five by five." I did not much care for the entirety of S4. In terms of eps I did not like, certainly "The Girl in Question" ranks very high.
My favorite was Destiny, I love the fight and lots of humor in the show and Season 4 as a whole was not my favorite. In a Hole in the World I thought the Cavemen were the winners..remember the Astronauts did not have weapons.
I really like "The Girl In Question", and I feel that the only real reason it deserves its low marks is due to the placement of said episode within season 5. Some might argue that it was just what we needed: a fun, light romp from the old days of Angel to offset the epic end that was about to come. Personally, I feel quite the opposite about it. I feel like the episode is a glaring interruption in an otherwise smooth running conclusion to the series, and a distraction from getting back to business. Aside from that, I find the episode itself to be hilarious and rather surprisingly sweet. Although, I kind of wish it had been Dawn or Xander they kept visiting with, instead of Andrew, since he already had his (solid) turn in "Damage".
Racoon Boy - I also love Epiphany as an episode. I enjoy the humor in it.

I would like to add to the list of enjoyable arcs the Pylea arc at the end of season 2 - Lorne's family, the dance of joy, Groo, Lorne loosing his head, Cordy as a queen - I enjoyed that arc a lot. Many people love A Hole in the World, I agree it is a great episode but all of Fred's death scenes break my heart and I find it upsetting to watch (which I know is what it is supposed to do).
I loved 'The girl in question', I though it was a great last funny episode for the Buffyverse.

The list is quite surprising, especially for the raking... I would probably have put "Spin the bottle" and "Sleep tight" in the top 5. And "Billy" should really be in that list.
My favortie seasons of Angel are season 2 followed by season 4.

My top five favorite episodes are...

1)I Will Remember You
2)Five By Five
3)City Of
4)Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been
5)Origin

My five worst episodes of Angel are....

1)The Girl In Question(I consider it the worst episode of both series.)
2)Tomorrow
3)Waiting In The WIngs
4)Provider
5)Birthday

But every episode of Angel including these bottom five has something I enjoyed about it or in it.
I for the life of me cannot figure out why everyone hates "The Girl in Question" so much. I agree completely that its placement in the season is jarring and interrupts the emotional arc. But the episode itself? Sure, I can understand why people wouldn't like it, but the worst of the series? Of both series? Maybe I've just read too much meta defending the episode that I've been blinded to its faults, and I do have some problems with it, but I haven't actually heard why it's so hated. I'm sure everyone has thoughtful reasons for their dislike of it, and I'd love to hear what they are. Without starting an argument, of course.

Also, I'd been waiting all season to see Spike and Angel argue over who saved the world the most, so that might have something to do with my affection for it. ;)
Not a bad list, but I've only ever really seen random Angel eps - I need to buy the whole boxset and watch it from beginning to end like i did with Buffy, I just haven't gotten around to it.

Oh, and am I the only one who thinks that The Girl In Question became hysterically funny due to the first issue of Season Eight? Hehehe...
Maybe it's just me, but I didn't think "The Girl in Question" was that funny. But I wouldn't rank it on my least favorite list ONLY because it's one of my favorite Fred/Illyria storylines. Whenever I watch the episode, I fast forward through the Italy scenes and only watch the Fred/Illyria/Wes/Fred's parents scenes.
I can't beleive that people always forget about The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco. That, to me, is just as bad as Girl In Question. I would totally agree with She being the worst, but Angel and Wes dancing is one of the funniest things in the whole of Angel (along with Dance of Joy and Smile Time), so I tend to turn a blind eye.

And I don't know that it's the best episode, but my absolute favourite moment in all of television is in Reunion. 'And somehow, I just can't seem to care.' Still havn't found a moment to top it.
I never got the hate for The Girl in Question. To be honest, I really like that episode. The sets obviously leave a little something to be desired, but the budget had been cut and I'm completely willing to forgive that. I just thought it was a really wonderful fun episode and I'd rank it in the higher levels of Angel episodes. Spike and Angel played off each other so well in that episode, especially that conversation about who has saved the world more times.

And season 4...not for me. It was the only season I've ever watched in a Joss show and contemplated not continuing. I of course kept on going and was rewarded by the wonderful season 5, but season 4 just didn't really ever sit right with me.
I love season 4, think it's truly profound. I call it a single 16-hour episode

Agree with "She" as the worst episode...it's actually bad, not just "not terribly good, like most of the rest."

As Giles might say, in that episode, the subtext was rapidly becoming the text.

And, yes, five years ago, on my birthday, no less, Angel was cancelled. Damn.

[ edited by Chris inVirginia on 2009-01-13 16:33 ]
I love Girl in Question, and Numero Uno (though it seems more like a Mulder X-Files episode to me). I disliked season 4 immensely, and really only liked the Sean Astin episode until Jasmine showed up. It's also the season I washed my hands of Wes for what he did with the baby, and I never got over it.

I'd say my least favourites are I Will Remember You,, The Ring, The Shroud of Rahmon, Sleep Tight (for making me hate Wes) and Apocalypse Nowish (for making me want to spork out my eyes.) That's not based on quality, just personal preference.

I love season five in general.

I can't pick a top five. Too many good choices. It was hard enough picking a bottom five, since they were still (mostly) well-done episodes.
1. Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been
2. Blood Money
3. Smile Time
4. Waiting In The Wings
5. I Will Remember You
Unfortunately, I disliked season 4 so much that I didn't watch season 5. I didn't even watch season 4 long enough to see Faith's return. (Faith is my favorite Whedonverse character.) However, I've seen season 5 on DVD and it is definitely my favorite season. I still haven't been able to watch "You're Welcome" again. I watched it once and cried (I actually cried) once I learned that they killed Cordelia. Because I didn't watch the end of season 4, I didn't know Cordelia was in a coma. She's the only original Buffy character to die (and stay dead). She was never one of my favorite characters, but I couldn't help feeling that an old friend had died. Though I didn't like Numero Cinco, I liked the Mexican wrestling theme.

[ edited by ricetxpeaches on 2009-01-13 16:53 ]

[ edited by ricetxpeaches on 2009-01-13 16:56 ]
I'm not the biggest "Angel" fan, which might explain why Season 4 is my favorite, and I love both The Cautionary Tale . . . and The Girl in Question. Perhaps it's the relatively un-Angel-ic nature of all three things. By contrast, there were several episodes of Season One that I've never been able to watch all the way through, and I thought The Shroud of Rahmon was pretty awful too.
But but but Vegas Angel!!
I've never understood the need to categorize the show episodes into best and worst. Even when I thought Angel flagged a bit, it was still one of the best shows on TV (and the same goes for Buffy). For a long time, TNT ran and re-ran it and that's how I'd start my day out before work, watching (most of) an episode. Along with an apple a day, I think a good prescription is watching a Whedon show, any episode, even She.
I loved season 4 (though I can see its faults) and really strongly disliked seasons 1 and 5 (with the exception of some excellent individual episodes), so I guess I live in bizarro world.

I've just realised that I have weirdly similar feelings towards Buffy: I really strongly disliked both the first and last seasons of Buffy as well (despite some outstanding episodes in each), and in many ways I loved season 6, which is grim and largely unloved, like ATS season 4.

Oh, and I generally love lists like this - exactly the kind of impetus I needed for an Angel marathon!
Tonya J, TNT still airs Angel episodes in the morning. This morning's episodes were the first two episodes from season 2.
Well,I actually love the Fred/Illyria/Wes and Fred's parents part of TGIQ but despise the rest of it.I sort of wish they kept the Fred/Illyria part as the A story and created a new B story.

I didn't feel the episode was funny in the least and it was probably the first time I actually felt I wasted an hour of my time watching an episode of the verse.

I just felt the episode was insulting to the characters(Angel Buffy and Spike).I thought all three came off looking awful and it just felt like the episode was an intentional shot at a part of fandom.I've never been a fan of Andrew and his role in this episode didn't help either.Plus some of the reasons the episode came about,rubbed me the wrong way.

I'm very thankful actually for Buffy Season 8 #1 because in my mind,it washes away that episode for me.

Shortly after the first season 8 arc,I tried to re-watch TGIQ for the first time since it originally aired.I had only watched it once,during it's original airing on The WB.So I sat down and watched it again and even after season 8 #1,I still found it almost unbearable to sit through.I found myself just wanting to fast forward through all the non-Illyria/Fred/Wes/parents stuff again.It's still just a terrible episode IMO.

I know others enjoy the episode though and I'm glad they get some fun out of it.
I found that on a second viewing a lot of the episodes that I thought were rubbish weren't that bad. I remember thinking Cautionary Tale... was just a bad one off, but when I watched it again, I found it extremely entertaining.

The same thing happened with Buffy. I remember hating the episode Beer Bad. Now that I have watched it a couple times, I find it very funny and entertaining.
I LOVE Beer Bad. I think it's just so incredibly funny. And accurate. I went to a very wet Top 20 college, and the pub scene was SOOOO accurate. I'd completely understand it if a bartender began spiking the beer.
I agree with most of the top picks here, although one that hasn't been mentioned yet that I remember liking a lot is Soul Purpose.
"The best hour of TV Iíve ever seen."

Same here, my friend.

Disagree about the bottom five, though. "Tomorrow" is good, and they realllly should have included "I Fall to Pieces" and "The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco" to the Worst Of list.
I still think that "I Will Remember You" is not a very good episode, but I'm in the minority so I can accept that.

I mostly like the list. And the bottom five are some good picks. I wouldn't quite put "Tomorrow" as low as that, but it definitely struck me as being a lot weaker than it should have been.

EDIT: "The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco" was sometimes awkwardly written, but is a pretty strong outing overall. I'm mixed on "TGIQ."

[ edited by WilliamTheB on 2009-01-13 18:08 ]
I found the list interesting... but what I find more interesting are the reactions to it. I think I must be one of the few who was completely ignorant to the fact that The Girl in Question is hated by so many. I actually quite like it and thought most other people did, as well. As many have said, I do agree that it doesn't belong at the end of the season.

But I would gladly have it replace The Cautionary Tale of Numbero Cinco, which bores me to death.

My favourite episodes of Angel include A Hole in the World, Waiting in the Wings, Reprise, Reunion, Billy, and Darla (directly after watching Fool for Love, of course).

I hated the fourth season, when I watched it on television, but I think it plays much better on DVD, and my current least favourite season of Angel is the first season.

I'm watching Buffy and Angel with my best friend, who has never seen the shows before, and it's so hard for us to keep Angel going at the same rate as Buffy. Right now, we're about half-way through the first season (Parting Gifts), but just finished the fourth season of Buffy. (I was a bad mentor and didn't schedule the crossovers accordingly.) I find that the first season just isn't involving, with the notable exception of a few episodes, like Hero, I Will Remember You, To Shanshu in LA, and Five by Five/Sanctuary.
Buffy was always my favorite series, but my all time fave episode of any Joss show is "A Hole In The World", I am 24 and it makes me sob EVERY TIME, just amazing.
Favorite episode: "The Trial". Darla went from wanting to get turned by Mullet Guy in a gross alley to accepting an abbreviated human life just in time for Drusilla to turn up with hair-raisingly creepy background music. Angel showed how much he's willing to give of himself to save someone's life and soul (like in "Sanctuary" and "I Will Remember You", which are also amazing, though Buffy's treatment of Angel in the former sort of made me want her to get hit by a bus), and had to endure the torturous realization that it wasn't enough, twice. We got a flashback that pretty much summed up the Darla/Angelus relationship, and saw how different it is to the much more complex current situation. Lindsey was excellent, as was Lorne, the trial master guy was rather entertaining, and it didn't hurt that Angel was shirtless for a lovely long portion of the episode, either.

Least favorite episode: "The Girl in Question". It was like they were trying to force Xander or Andrew humor out of Angel and Spike, and both came across as maddeningly and uncharacteristically petty and shallow, and so did their evil past selves! Their mission, the fact that they ignored it to chase Buffy aside, was ridiculous. Buffy herself, offscreen or not, seemed out of character just for sharing an apartment with Andrew in the first place. It's a small mercy that the whole Buffy/The Immortal thing has since been retconned to Decoy Buffy #2/The Immortal. And Angel wearing that stupid jacket makes me cringe even worse than when he wore that yellow and blue striped shirt in "Shiny Happy People". On the other hand, I adored the scenes with Wesley, Illyria, and Fred's parents, but so late in the season, the rest of the episode should have been used to further the final Circle of the Black Thorn arc, which was sadly abrupt even if it was an awesome end to the series.

I like season four, with the exception of the Cordy/Connor grossness. We got Faith, Angelus, and Gwen that season, and I love a villain who comes disguised as the happy ending (if thinly). Overall, though, my favorite season is the second and I don't really have a least favorite.
My take on a few things:

* "She" was just another Monster of the Week, in my opinion, and not as bad as everyone else is making it out to be. I have no objection to a thinly veiled metaphor attacking FGM--few other things deserved to be attacked as much. (The Third Reich... and... wait, there's got to be something else....)

* "Why We Fight" feels too retconnish to me, as if written by someone with an Indianna Jones fetish. The government doesn't just forget about vampires. I'd put it into my list of the five worst episodes.

* Good riddance to Doyle. Wesley being added mid-S1 was the one thing that started kicking Angel into high gear. And yes, Faith finding redemption in "Angel" was second only to Wesley's arc in terms of overall buffyverse coolness.

* Overall, I'd rank the seasons 5,3,2,1,4
It really is amazing (and, in its way, wonderful) that different people can both "love" a series, one that was spun off from another series that they "love," but clearly be finding utterly different things about it rewarding. To me S4 is absolutely the crowning achievement of Angel--I wouldn't tend to pick out individual episodes from it, because it runs as one continuous episode. I find the idea that people simply stopped watching it just profoundly shocking, because to me it seemed absolutely central to everything that Angel was about.

S5, by contrast, always struck me as mostly floundering about until the Illyria arc got underway. By the same token, I've never been as keen on "Not Fade Away" as others obviously are. There are great moments in it, obviously (the conclusion of the Wes/Illyria arc rips my heart out every time), but the whole "Circle of the Black Thorn" thing was so utterly contrived (I mean, really these losers were behind all the evil that Angel had been confronting all this time, and no one had heard so much as a whisper about them?) that I just couldn't invest in bringing them down as a fitting climax to the whole series.

Lastly--I agree with those above who note that episodes that they hated on first viewing sometimes improve enormously on reviewing. I hated "The Girl in Question" when it aired, but I love it now ("Gypsies, pah; we will speak of them no more!")--although I think it was jarringly misplaced in the emotional arc of the season. "Beer Bad" is another one that always makes me laugh out loud on re-viewing.

Degustibus ain't what they used to be.
Though I agree that "She" is my least favorite episode, and I'd probably call it "worst," it does have Angel dancing, which is maybe not enough to overcome the episode's faults, it does help.
I also like the bit where Angel's pretending to be a tour guide, but yeah, other than that, not a great episode.

I'll chime in and say I really enjoyed "The Girl in Question". It had me in stitches the whole time. I didn't like most of season 4, though it had great moments. More detailed comments will have to wait until I re-watch the whole series.
Just to give my two cents on the list, I think its one of the most accurate countdowns compared to my own opinions. I wouldn't class Tomorrow as one of the weakest episodes (there were some far weaker standalones in seasons 1 & 5) but it was a little disappointing as a finale to what could have been the best season, I think the superior ending of Season 5 pushes it into being my favourite overall.
Agree, k8cre8, the dancing is magnificent, but not enough.
It's not just that "She" was so thinly veiled and heavy handed. For my money, it's also the fact that the pivotal scene, the way we learn all of our information about her struggle, is... a scene where they're standing in a room and she's telling us. I'm no screenwriting genius, but I've heard of "Show, don't tell." I've also read since then that that is supposed to be a scene reflecting Angel's growing attraction to her, that that is the "action" of the scene, it just... doesn't so much work for me. It's like they came up with this interesting other species and series of rituals and then went, "Well, we can't film all of that or have it discovered organically, but it's cool, we want to keep it, so... okay, just have them describe it all. I'm sure it'll work just as well."

However, Angel/Wes dancing totally worth it.
Good riddance to Doyle.

In defense of the character and the actor, I'll always be glad he was there. If I even think about his individual moments, I tear up (Our rats are low being one of them).
Side question for those who've done the seasons back to back: I'm showing my boyfriend the shows for the first time, and we just finished Buffy5/Angel2 going back to back. Do I keep alternating on a regular pattern for 6/3 and 7/4? Do I try to follow airing schedules?
I'm hoping that the reason "That Old Gang of Mine" isn't making everyone's worst episode ever list, is that everyone has completely repressed their memories of it.
Count me in as another person surprised by the TGIQ hate. There have been far worse episodes than that; I'd say Numero Cinco is my #1 worst.
@siwangmu: I recently watched Buffy and Angel in roughly "story" order (which differs some from airing order), and I found that Buffy6/Angel3 and Buffy7/Angel4 got really blocky in terms of the story order; I wrote a bit about it here.

If you go by airdates, though, you'll keep things moving along with both shows pretty well, so I think it would be fine. The next time I watch through Buffy and Angel, I'm probably going to do Buffy 6 and 7 and Angel 3 and 4 as whole seasons, not broken up by airdates or story.
I can't make a best of/worst of list for Angel. Every episode had something in it worth watching, although it's true that some episodes and seasons were stronger than others.

My two cents on TGIQ: to me, it simply felt misplaced within the storyline.

Ditto on the whole "Circle of the Black Thorn" thing being utterly contrived.
I love season 4. Favourite arc, favourite baddie, awesome amounts of Wesley being awesome. (...ly wrong.) Favourite comedy episode and favourite commentary (harsh my melon).

I'll admit I do hate the Cordelia stuff but mostly I hate the way it was told, not it itself. (Putting the audience in a position where we know Cordelia is evil but are getting no help to understand why because the good guys haven't even figured that out yet just didn't work for me.)

I'm afraid I haven't learned to love TGIQ yet. It's painful for me, and its position in the arc just makes that unignoreable. My friend and I had to help each other through it on a rewatch... that's the only Angel ep I actively dislike, though.

I couldn't do as exhaustive a list as this, though, especiall not of 'worst' ones. Angel is my favourite show and I love its different facets all too well to be really discriminatory. Up there at the top of my list though, would be...

Sleep Tight. Deep Down. Not Fade Away. Spin The Bottle. 5x5/Sacrifice. The Trial. Epiphany.

*happy sigh*
My favourite would be..

1) Darla (together with Fool for Love.. I just love the Fanged Four flashbacks too much..)
2) Not Fade Away - cooles show ending ever...
3) Smile Time -well, yeah...!
4) Reunion
5) A hole in the world

Generally speaking, I loved the Darla arc, and liked season 5 a lot...with the exception of The Cautionary tale of Numero Cinco, and the (oh my God how awful) fake italian setting (and language...They just could have called me, I'd have been very happy to help them out..) of The Girl in question...even if:

Oh, and am I the only one who thinks that The Girl In Question became hysterically funny due to the first issue of Season Eight? Hehehe...


Yeah, me too!!!

.. Didn't really like season 4, and was glad to have a normal Cordy back in You're welcome..
I have to say, while not loving TGIQ, I absolutely hated Numero Cinco. But...

Top Five:
A Hole In The World
Not Fade Away
Five by Five
Smile Time
Spin the Bottle

That's close enough to the correct order...
Oh, I guess I'll have to come out and say that I seem to be the only person in the world who kinda enjoys the Numero Cinco episode. It's a deliberate genre exercise, and it's certainly true that Angel would have fallen apart if they'd done too many such episodes, but the Angelverse is robust enough to survive the odd moment of possession by foreign genres.
I agreed with most of the top 25, but not necessarily the order. I don't agree about the dislike with Season 4. Yeah, it has roller-coaster likeness with built-in breaks that would randomly halt without warning. But, I loved the character development in it. Okay, so maybe not Cordelia's but the others, yes.

I also agree on "Hero". Loved Doyle, but the Nazi demons was a bit much. It was like watching a cheesy episode and then shock & horror to wake you up to tears.

*sigh* I miss Angel.

Not alone, snot. I also enjoyed Numero Cinco.
I'll third the Numero Cinco appreciation. I also loved the little glimpses of the character in the episodes leading up to it. Not the best thing ever, but I appreciated the concept and execution enough for it to be fun.
I'm totally with snomster and korkster and redders. Numero Cinco is fun.

[ edited by skittledog on 2009-01-13 23:07 ]
I'll admit I do hate the Cordelia stuff but mostly I hate the way it was told, not it itself. (Putting the audience in a position where we know Cordelia is evil but are getting no help to understand why because the good guys haven't even figured that out yet just didn't work for me.)

I wonder if it's the Cordy stuff that puts most people off S4 (I figure it has to be either that or the satire on the nature of religious faith). But to me, this is actually one of the great things about S4--the fact that they were willing to take such an enormous risk. This is storytelling that is breaking all the rules, and yet is able to cash all its checks in due course. We see Cordy doing apparently inexplicable and utterly out of character things--but when the explanations do, finally, come, everything we saw makes perfect sense. To have explained everything upfront would have killed what, for me, is one of the great rewards of that season--the intense anxiety it provokes as you wonder "what the hell is going on? Why the hell is she acting this way?"

People say that want story tellers to take risks and do unconventional things; but the reactions to Cordy's and Tara's deaths show just how hard a line it is for a show runner to walk. Mess around with the basic rewards of the show (here is this familiar group of people that you love; here's this other group that you love to hate; here are they ways that they act etc. etc.) and you risk alienating large parts of your audience pretty quickly.
swiangmu, I'm doing a run through of both shows together at the moment too. Before I started I figured out an order using various sources and it's worked fine so far.

Buffy S4 and Angel S1: I switched between shows each episode starting with Buffy (so B4.01, A1.01, B4.02, A1.02, etc)

Buffy S5 and Angel S2: Same as above (so B5.01, A2.01, B5.02, A2.02, etc)

Buffy S6 and Angel S3: Again, switching between shows each episode but this time starting with Angel. However, Buffy 6.01 and 6.02 are together as one episode on the DVDs (on the UK discs anyway, I assume others are the same). So I think it's best to start with Angel 3.01 and 3.02 then go to Buffy - helps sell that Buffy's been away. So that would be A3.01, A3.02, B6.01, B6.02 and then A3.03, B6.03, A3.04, B6.04, etc.

Buffy S7 and Angel S4: I'm about to start these seasons (well, maybe after a quick Firefly/Serenity run ;) so I've not tested it yet and as nanceoir suggests in his link, it's a tricky one. I think this should get the cross-overs right and doesn't leave either story for too long (which is a problem with the air dates). Can't avoid the annoying slowing of pace towards the end of Buffy though. If anyone can spot any problems with it, it'd be good to know.

B7.01 Lessons
B7.02 Beneath You
A4.01 Deep Down
B7.03 Same Time, Same Place
A4.02 Ground State
B7.04 Help
A4.03 The House Always Wins
B7.05 Selfless
A4.04 Slouching Toward Bethlehem
B7.06 Him
A4.05 Supersymmetry
B7.07 Conversations with Dead People
A4.06 Spin the Bottle
B7.08 Sleeper
A4.07 Apocalypse, Nowish
B7.09 Never Leave Me
B7.10 Bring On The Night
A4.08 Habeas Corpses
B7.11 Showtime
A4.09 Long Day's Journey
B7.12 Potential
A4.10 Awakening
B7.13 The Killer In Me
A4.11 Soulless
B7.14 First Date
A4.12 Calvary
B7.15 Get It Done
A4.13 Salvage
B7.16 Storyteller
A4.14 Release
B7.17 Lies My Parents Told Me
A4.15 Orpheus
A4.16 Players
B7.18 Dirty Girls
A4.17 Inside Out
A4.18 Shiny Happy People
B7.19 Empty Places
A4.19 The Magic Bullet
A4.20 Sacrifice
B7.20 Touched
A4.21 Peace Out
A4.22 Home
B7.21 End of Days
B7.22 Chosen
NotaViking-That's a pretty good list on how to watch the episodes together but here's a reminder: While Buffy's S7 timeline was several months long, Angel's S4 was actually only a matter of weeks.
Wow, a lot of people hated The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco. Why is that? I loved it, especially how well it summed up Angel's current state. The parallels between Numero Cinco and Angel as CEO of Wolfram & Hart were extremely well done in my opinion, and make the episode always rewarding to watch.

I can however, concur with the lack of She love. The thing that most annoyed me about it was the fact that Angel was pretty much a bystander. It wasn't about him at all. Thematically or plot-wise. That made it feel shoehorned into a place it didn't belong, as any ANGEL episode should be about Angel in some way. Although him and Wesley dancing is extremely brilliant.

A lot of the episodes I didn't used to like, I now do, because I read all those reviews by that guy who writes the Angel reviews and the in-depth character sketches. That guy is ASTUTE, and I now appreciate the show a lot more after reading those.
Re Buffy 7/Angel 4, yeah - the actual in-universe timelines totally don't match up. Depends which version of time matters more to you...

To have explained everything upfront would have killed what, for me, is one of the great rewards of that season--the intense anxiety it provokes as you wonder "what the hell is going on? Why the hell is she acting this way?"


Sorry, I should have explained myself more clearly I guess (as you were partially replying to me I think) - I agree with that wholeheartedly. I didn't need to know in the first episode what was going on, and indeed in rewatching I really enjoy picking up on the first hints (e.g. in Spin The Bottle). However, where it loses is me is somewhere in how she changes and how the structure of the show doesn't question it soon enough... I almost felt like nobody in the show was acting like she'd changed so why did I feel like she had? It sort of felt like that thing in lesser shows where characters slip completely and become something else and yet nobody within the show notices because the writers don't even care about that kind of continuity. Despite knowing Angel was better than that, it still caused me to lose my enthusiasm for finding out what was going on - I just didn't want to watch any more of the character, because it rang so false but apparently not even her best friends were noticing. From Players onwards, once the others twig, I have no problem at all with her scenes/storyline. It was just when I could see she was different but it seemed like no-one else could (bear in mind I marathoned these dvds on my own, barely even discussing them, so in-universe reaction was all I had really).

*shrugs* It's a hard one to explain. I suppose inorganic character changes are always going to feel unnatural because that's not how the real world works. So I would agree it's a brave move to try them... but I'm afraid that doesn't reconcile me to the hurtful confusion when first watching the character dissolve.

Oh, and my favourite bit of She is the coffee beans. Heehee.
Funny. Although I do realize different people like different parts, I would never have guessed people actually love The Girl in Question. Yes, the Illyria arc was nice, though I never really liked Fred that much, so the introduction of Illyria was a much bigger bonus than the actual transformation story for me.

Now, anyway. Why I don't like TGiQ. Buffy and Angel were always smart shows, with humour coming from clever dialog, situations or just acting, not some poor attempt at slapstick. Benny Hill already did slapstick much better, just compare any Benny Hill "chase" to the scooter drive (first hit on Youtube: The Benny Hill Show-End Credits). Watch that and then see the scooter run... I'm almost sure they did not actually play that tune during it, but instead it was just playing in my head, but that's the main thing I remember from the episode.

Oh, also the awful Italian manager, there's funny and there's offensive, this was the latter.

[ edited by Eerikki on 2009-01-14 01:33 ]
agree with that wholeheartedly. I didn't need to know in the first episode what was going on, and indeed in rewatching I really enjoy picking up on the first hints (e.g. in Spin The Bottle). However, where it loses is me is somewhere in how she changes and how the structure of the show doesn't question it soon enough... I almost felt like nobody in the show was acting like she'd changed so why did I feel like she had? It sort of felt like that thing in lesser shows where characters slip completely and become something else and yet nobody within the show notices because the writers don't even care about that kind of continuity.


I have to agree on this point. Also, as Cordelia of S1-S3 was by far my favourite char on Angel, though she did get worse and worse with being more and more divine and the less and less Cordy. But still, I kind of liked the higher being gig, though I guess it would have been too much of a deux ex machina for the later seasons, so I guess something had to be done to remove that. I just wish it wasn't done so badly.

The hiding of the reasons for Cordelias actions seemed like a prolonged gag just for the cheap thrill of showing the surprise at later point. It just went too long, too far and with too little focus or explanation. Why did it actually happen? Why didn't nobody notice? I think it is similar to the reason why I didn't like buffy S6-7 as much as the first 5: the character actions for the sidekicks were primarily chosen to progress the plot, character motivations be damned. Or, in this case, the actual reasons why or how it happens be damned as long as we get to point X by episode Y. Not to mention belittling the S3 arc at the same.

I actually disliked the S4 enough to seriously consider selling the Angel dvd-box after watching it through. I ended up keeping it just to be able to watch the (excellent) crossover episodes. And as a disclaimer, dislike here is of course compared to Buffy, not to generic series. Though I don't think Angel would fit my top10 series list, but it wouldn't be far off.
My opinion will probably be a bit skewed because I didn't start watching until right before the fifth season began. I was aware of many of the larger twists, most notably that Cordelia wasn't in control of her body in Season 4. Therefore, I didn't feel cheated by what happened the way most people did, because I was expecting it.

Anyway, my first time going through the show, I watched S5 on TV while trying to catch up with the earlier seasons as they were released. I saw the first three by the time the fifth ended, and saw about half of 4 on F/X before it was finally released. Because a few months would go by between seasons, my original assessment was that each season got progressively better with 1 being the worst (and worst being a relative term) and 5 being the best.

However, this past summer, I went back and watched both Buffy and Angel together (mixing them when appropriate). I still do not dislike any season, but now I have to say that either 2 or 5 is my favorite. 3 and 4 have tighter stories, but 2 and 5 have such phenominal episodes and powerful arcs that even though not every episode deals with the overall story, they are definitely the best. The beige Angel story begins with one of my favorite scenes in the series (Angel locking the W&H lawyers in the wine cellar with Darla and Drusilla) and ends with Angel's epiphany, which has become my moral compass. And S5 has Angel and Spike, which was probably the best relationship on the show. S5 had their fight in "Destiny", it had Illyria, and brilliantly turned an annoying network mandate to tone down the story arcs into the arc itself.

I probably can't pinpoint my favorite episodes, but "Destiny", "Reunion", "Reprise", "Epiphany", "I Will Remember You", "A Hole In The World", "Forgiving", "Tomorrow", "Apocalypse Nowish", and "Orpheus" are definitely on the list.

As for least favorite, "I Fall To Pieces", "She", "First Impressions" and "Double or Nothing" fill that one.
My brother and his daughter just finished watching Angel. I'm not sure what her favourite episode is, but her favourite character is Lorne.

I just thought that was cool.
I too am confused on how one should show Buffy and Angel on DVD. There were some crossovers that required both to be viewed on the same night, as they were originally aired.
The way I did it, John Darc, was for Seasons 4/1 and 5/2, I alternated episodes, watching one Buffy then one Angel. For Season 6/3, there is only one "crossover", and in this season, I watched the first two episodes of Angel, then the first two episodes of Buffy (though on the DVD, it is one double episode), then alternated from there, going Angel-Buffy (instead of Buffy-Angel). You have to watch Carpe Noctem before Flooded because Willow calls Angel in Carpe Noctem, then Angel calls Buffy in Flooded.

Season 7/4 is the toughest because there are a few crossovers, but the shows were on different networks. You need to get about two episodes ahead in Buffy, so that you watch Lies My Parents Told Me before Orpheus (Fred calls Willow in Lies, and Willow appears in Orpheus). After that, you need to get ahead in Angel so that you watch Home before End of Days. Angel gets the amulet in Home, and arrives in Sunnydale at the end of End of Days and gives Buffy the amulet in Chosen.
I did it with help from a friend who told me where the crossovers were and whether they mattered. (I'm not sure you'll miss much from not seeing Lies before Orpheus, but you definitely need Salvage - Orpheus before Dirty Girls.)

brilliantly turned an annoying network mandate to tone down the story arcs into the arc itself.


Yes, I have to agree with this fully. Season 5 might be my least favourite as a complete season, but that is definitely my favourite thing about it. Well, that and the ending, which is still my favourite finale I've ever seen.
This comes closer to how I'd rate individual episodes than anything I've read before, with a couple of notable exceptions. I've never cared that much for Smile Time. I think by far the funniest AtS ep is Spin the Bottle. And one of my least favorite eps of the entire series is I Will Remember you, simply because ... um, trying not to get in trouble here, so I'll just say because I'm so not a fan of the particular dynamic at the center of this ep.

What makes me happiest about this list is A Hole in the World at #2, I'd probably give it the same rating.
There are a couple of eps I think should have definitely made the list, probably in the top ten, that weren't on it at all: In the Dark, and Billy.
And I would definitely have included Convictions, which is IMO an almost perfect ep, with Joss's great dialog and striking direction.

I'm among the "season 4 was really sub-par" faction, with the notable exception of the first and last eps (Deep Down and Home), and Spin the Bottle. I also really liked Fredless, as well as the "dark Wes" and his affair with Lilah arc, but the main "Connor/evil Cordelia/Jasmine arc was the most contrived of anything in any of Joss's shows, IMO. I loved Connor as a character, and how season ended up, just can't help thinking there must have been a better way to get there.

[ edited by Shey on 2009-01-14 10:05 ]
The episodes that really stand out in my mind are:

- A Hole in the World (my favourite episode)
- Spin the Bottle (my second favourite)
- Deep Down
- Home

To a lesser extent I really loved Sanctuary, I Will Remember You, Are you now or have you ever been?, Waiting in the Wings, Orpheus and most of season 5 (Lineage, Destiny etc. Soooo good)


Can anyone help me out with the name of a season 5 episode not long after Fred has died? Lorne is sitting around alone getting drunk and saying everyone expects the green guy to be chirpy. Illyria asks Wesley to tell her a joke and he starts with 'three guys walk into a bar' but then the guys fall into a hole and it turns into a bizarre kind of philosophical meditation. That whole episode sends shivers down my spine; it's so good. What's it called?
"To me S4 is absolutely the crowning achievement of Angel"

My attitude towards season 4 when I initially watched it - and it's remained the same - was that the first 2/3 is absolutely brilliant, from Jasmine on it is absolutely dire, and then it's capped off by a tremendous final episode (Home). There is so much to like about most of season 4. The characterisation was at its finest. For example, to me one of the show's greatest bits was Angelus taunting the others from his cage, narrowing in on their emotional weaknesses (Wesley got new clothes anda haircut but he's still the same kid noone wants to play with at school. Ouch)(and add Soulless to my list of absolute favourites). The Beast was actually menacing. There were outstanding individual episodes (Spin the Bottle, Orpheus, Deep Down) but the show also shook things up (everyone in W&H getting killed). It used it's budget to great effect and looked cinematic. Above all, season 4 was the first time 'Angel' actually moved me. Prior to then Angel to me was a very well-written adventure show with wit and good characterisation, but season 4 was when it became something more. But then ....

Oh god how I hate season 4 once Jasmine comes along. It's not religious satire that turned me off it (I'm an atheist myself. Besides I don't think the satire in there was clever or funny enough for me to pay much attention to it) and it's not because I couldn't figure out why the characters were doing certain things (I'm fine with ambiguity and waiting to find things out). It was just so god-damn boring. Like where a bunch of them go into some tedious alternative universe to get some boring piece of information and then we get some really long, faux-epic fight scene and the cheesy music swells up. The fact that my memory is so fuzzy on it says it all.

"S5, by contrast, always struck me as mostly floundering about until the Illyria arc got underway."

That was my reaction at the time but season 5 holds up so well on rewatching. It's consistently excellent (I'm ignoring Harm's Way). I think much of the reason some people hate it is they go into it with the wrong expectations. When I watched it the first time (on DVD) I was noticing how few episodes of the show were left and I kept waiting for the show to get epic and to seem final. I'm pretty confident that if I'd known it was mostly standalones and if it hadn't been the final season I would have loved it much more on first viewing.

"By the same token, I've never been as keen on "Not Fade Away" as others obviously are"

Yeah, gotta agree with you there. I'm in the 'the unfinished battle was awesome and fitting' camp, but I think the rest of the episode let it down. To give just one example, why would Gunn spend what his potentially his last day alive going to see Anne, a chick he met a few times years ago? That smacked of the writers not having any idea what to do with him because they had never really given him much character outside the core group of characters

Does anyone know why Joss didn't write the finale himself? It was his only thing on the air at the time. Just because Jeffrey Bell was the show-runner?
Let Down: "Can anyone help me out with the name of a season 5 episode not long after Fred has died?

It's "Underneath" written by Sarah Fain & Elizabeth Craft; that particular part is from a Wesley dream. In the dream, Fred asks him to tell her a joke, and he responds:

WESLEY: "Two men walk into a bar. The first man orders a scotch and soda. The second man remembers something he'd forgotten, and it doubles him over with pain. He falls to the floor shaking.... and then through the floor and into the Earth. He looks back up at the first man, but he doesn't call out to him. (Looks down at Fred.) They're not that close."

In general, I tend to like the Tim or Joss episodes from any season best. I do love the whole Darla-Dru-Angel arc in Season Two, including Mere Smith's "Redefinition" and several episodes by David Greenwalt. Some of my favorite episodes of the whole show are in Season Four - I had no problem with the Cordy/Connor relationship, and I loved the whole Jasmine arc. I'm not a huge fan of Season Five, but I like "Smile Time" a whole bunch, I really enjoyed "Harm's Way" - and "A Hole in the World" broke my heart.

I loved Doyle, but I think adding Wesley to the team was brilliant - his character development throughout the show is as compelling and believable as any I've ever read or watched.

Well, it's obviously time for an AtVS re-watch - the only thing I'll say about AtVS vs. BtVS is that there are episodes of Angel I'll skip at this point when I re-watch, but there's none of Buffy I hop over.
Thanks for the episode title, QuoterGal. I'm really glad Sarah Fain and Elizabeth Craft are working on Dollhouse. Like I say, I think Underneath and Soulless are stupendously good

As for Smile Time ... I've never loved it (yes, I know that's a shocking thing to say, akin to saying I enjoy kicking puppies). Great, zany concept and it's done okay but I just didn't laugh much in it. My loss
Interesting to read. I think the experiment of S4 being run in similarly-styled time of 24 hurt it. I found the season more dragging than intense (though it didn't help that in Aust the timeslot hell it was shuffled into meant 11pm+ viewings).

Having said that, I think Orpheus is one of my favourite eps of the series.

The Girl in Question I felt was hurt by the cancellation aspect. It jarred for what was being the final run of the show. A lot had to get covered in a short timeframe and TGIQ was an indulgence (which Why We Fight could also be considered in hindsight - though I really enjoy that episode where the past is explored once again of Angel before the Buffy experience).

My favourite aspect of Smile Time was my then young son would mimic Angel's "puppet walk" or do Pylea's dance of joy whilst singing the "Self Esteem" song.......

Ack - now I want to go re-watch them in tandem.......again.
Interesting, I saw season 4 on DVD and I wonder whether it might have played better that way without week-long reality breaks
Let Down I would agree. I almost stopped watching completely on the original screenings. However it works better as a marathon viewing.

I've noticed that with a number of series actually. Sometimes I wonder how much that is thought of now with the advent of dvds as a form of viewing.
Oh, one more comment:

"Are You Now or Have You Ever Been?" is probably my least favorite episode outside of S4 abd "Why We Fight". I guess I just really hate using a retconned Angel to explore world history, as opposed to character history. Spike/Dru/Darla/Angel(us) flashbacks are fine, but the rest of the "period pieces" just feel shoehorned in, IMHO.
Skittledog writes:

I didn't need to know in the first episode what was going on, and indeed in rewatching I really enjoy picking up on the first hints (e.g. in Spin The Bottle). However, where it loses is me is somewhere in how she changes and how the structure of the show doesn't question it soon enough... I almost felt like nobody in the show was acting like she'd changed so why did I feel like she had?


But didn't they have every reason in the world to expect her to be acting strangely? She'd been a goddess (as far as they knew), she'd come back to earth with her entire memory wiped, and then when it was restored, it had been restored (again, as far as they knew) with total recall of every act Angelus had ever performed.

Angel certainly treats Cordy "as if she'd changed" after he sees her sleeping with Connor. The others, of course, don't know about that, so I can't really see why they should be treating her any differently (although they're all a little leery about her, given her ex-goddess-hood; not to mention the whole "slouching toward bethlehem" vision thing).

I certainly understand the type of objection you're raising, though. To me, the great example of that is the criminal misuse of Giles in S7 of Buffy--where, for the sake of a crappy "maybe he's the First" gag they have him acting utterly un-Gilesish for episode after episode and nobody notices. Put that on top of the laughable inability of anyone in the Scooby gang to think of a simple "always shake hands with the person you're talking to to make sure they're not The First" protocol, and that's a big part of my deep disappointment with the 2nd half of S7. But I just don't see how anybody's reaction to de-deified Cordy is so out of keeping in Angel S4.
"Are You Now or Have You Ever Been?" is probably my least favorite episode outside of S4 abd "Why We Fight". I guess I just really hate using a retconned Angel to explore world history, as opposed to character history.

I love the episode myself, but leaving the question of its merits aside, it seems to me simply incorrect to say that the episode isn't interested in "character history." It's offered to us as a crucial example of why Angel has problems engaging with the world. I'd call it a central thematic statement for the show: the necessity of having faith in humanity despite the fact that people will fail you almost every time.
snot monster:

But I just don't see how anybody's reaction to de-deified Cordy is so out of keeping in Angel S4.

Darn logical arguments. I have to agree that you're right - Angel is blinded by liking her, Connor is just blind, and Wes is the one who should have unemotionally spotted something weird going on - but he has a whole lot of other things on his mind in s4. So I accept that it all makes sense. But I have to go back to my feeling that it is somehow the show itself, the way it's told... something jars, for me. Something that makes the reveal in Calvary feel like 'ha ha, fooled you!' rather than a shock descent into darkness. I just remember rolling my eyes at her stabbing Lilah, and that doesn't seem like the audience response they were probably aiming for. It's sort of like... um. No, I'm not going to start talking in detail about Veronica Mars in a post about my favourite season of Angel, but the s2 mystery there suffered (for me, and I think for many others) from an abundance of plotline clues to who the bad guy was and yet no real emotional build-up for it - nothing that clicked when it was revealed, made you go 'oh of course.' Merely a let-down feeling of 'ugh yes I see how this makes sense but it feels all wrong.' And that's exactly what happened with Cordy, for me.
Well, for what it's worth I agree with you completely about S2 Veronica Mars. I do remember that the first time I watched S4 Angel (and I'd given up on Angel after S1 and stopped watching it, then got persuaded to give it another go and watched S2, S3 and S4 in a huge rush [on a friend's videotapes; how old school is that!]), I got very angsty when Cordy slept with Connor. I felt "oh come ON--she'd never do that! That's just betraying a character to pile on the Angel suffering." I guess it helped, for me, that I only had to wait a couple of evenings to find out that there was a perfectly good explanation for the sleeping with Connor bit. It might be that if I'd experienced the series in real-time I would have reached such a point of frustration with this un-Cordylike behavior that I couldn't be won back over.

I have to say that on re-watching the series, I usually think "how could I not have guessed that Cordy was the one behind everything?" I mean Cordy gets made into a Power That Is? Really? When you watch the eps knowing what's going to happen, they're full of little hints (like the fact that it's Cordy who suckers Angel into agreeing to be turned into Angelus by the use of some nifty reverse psychology--all the while telling us how the evil ones are always just that little bit smarter than the good guys....).

Anyway, once again I say that it's fascinating that smart, informed and committed viewers of a show can have such utterly diverse reactions to it. Has to give you some pity for the poor writers; one man's total balls-up is another's brilliant coup.
Heh. The more I read internet discussion fora, the more I find that to be true for every show, every plotline, every romantic pairing. I don't think there's a story ever told that everyone in the world could love at the same time.

But I'm afraid I can't use the excuse of watching s4 over a period of time - I can't remember exactly how long it took me to get through it, but probably less than a week. I do know that on the Saturday at the start of that week I went from Offspring to Ground State. Yeah... 18 episodes in one day. It was a lovely summer day, too, and I just spent it inside with my computer...

Anyway. I'd agree with you that all the clues are there on a rewatch - it's just that I don't feel it... and I can't seem to put it into words any better than that. In a way it is indeed fascinating to watch Cordy and try to figure out whether Jasmine has full control or whether Cordy can still think on her own at times (esp when first around Connor, if I remember correctly) but... I don't find it fun. Maybe I'm too scared by the idea of my mind and character slipping away, or else it's just reflex from watching too many other shows with naturally poor characterisation. I don't know. I just find it uncomfortable, and not in a good way.

But yeah. I love the kind of discussion where you can pick, pick, pick dissect all the different audience responses to the same thing and wonder why.
Maybe I'm too scared by the idea of my mind and character slipping away, or else it's just reflex from watching too many other shows with naturally poor characterisation.

Yeah--it's interesting at what point you just lose your belief in a character. I remember finding Alias fun for a while and then at a certain point just thinking "you know what, there's just no there there--they'll push these characters anywhere at all just to keep the story ticking over."

It's amazing how much we yearn, too, for that confirmation of the essential core of a character's identity--whatever we understand that to be. I remember the palpable sense of relief I felt reading a fanfic episode someone wrote for season seven which tried to retcon all the things the season had (in my view) utterly screwed up so that they made sense (it was called something like "Episode 19 1/2" and consisted mainly of dialogue in which we're given some kinds of reasons for the bizarrely out-of-character actions that had become the norm by that point of the season: Giles scheming to have Spike killed behind Buffy's back, the Scoobies voting Buffy out as leader because one mission had been less than successful etc. etc.). Even a non-canonical fanfic was like balm in gilead: which shows how much of the pleasure of a fictional world actually lies in its internal consistency. When you start dicking around with that consistency you really need to work to keep the reader/viewer convinced that there are good reasons for the changes.
Yeah - I'm not sure that's true for every viewer, though... just the ones who care enough to hang around on whedonesque discussing things 5 years after the show ended. ;) It's also probably less true for those shows that don't build consistency in from the start, so what becomes familiar is more just the set-up and character types than every nuance of the characters themselves. In that way, Angel and Buffy (agreed on Giles in s7) will have suffered from being previously so reliably good at it (at least Angel got time for an explanation and You're Welcome to make us feel better about it). Going back to VMars, I think the problem there was partially that the s1 murderer had been so perfectly correctly hinted at, emotionally. S2 couldn't do the same or we'd all have guessed it, but by being different ended up feeling unrealistic.

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