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July 13 2004

IGN DVD Review of Angel Season 2 A review of what many(not me) consider the best season of Angel. Just a tad bit late.

So many consider 2 the best? Didn't know that. Not sure I do. All seasons had their strong and weak points. Just like with buffy I can point out episodes I like more or less, or ideas or plots or general aspects of arcs, but I have a hard time picking seasons.

AS1 was very much 'young show', it had them trying to find their footing, and I didn't care for some of the standalones, but the Buffy/Spike/Faith eps were great, and the introduction of W&H with Lindsey and Lilah, which improved and built near the end, was good stuff. And the sad arc of Doyle, the introduction of Wes....that was all good.

Second season....I loved how they handled Darla and Lindsey and that was some of the best Dru stuff I've seen. (The ep where they kill all the lawyers is a classic. "You have great skin" - "I-I moisturize..." - "That was very thoughtful of you"......brilliant....) Lorne added....Wes and Gunn coming into their own....and yeah I liked Pylea. Funny stuff. Good season.

Season 3 raised the bar on many technical story-levels, loved addition of Fred. Actually some good standalones there. (The ballet one was superb. Hello Summer! hee) And I don't mind the big arcs but I have to say I'm one of the people who just found Connor annoying beyond belief. I understand he was pretty much screwed for life, seeing how he was raised, but that didn't change the fact I wanted to smack him pretty much every scene he was in. can't help it. Not my fav season anyway.

Season 4 I liked better. I thought the whole Angelus thing was great and the Jasmin part was well handled and creepy in a whole different way than usual. Dark Wes, Faith returns, Willow drops by and even the Connor bits were more okay. I think I liked it better than S3...(And I can still wig out my wife by saying "Talky meat!" and making a clicking sound;-)

S5 is probably my favorite though. I liked the W&H angle, loved the addition of Spike. Even losing Fred to Illyria was interesting and entertaining. Puppet Angel, Spike and Angel's italian adventure....and of course a powerful ending..

No, don't see S2 stick out as better than all the rest.
EdDantes the only reason I said that was because on most Angel boards and websites i've been to. Most people seem to consider the Second season their favorite. And for the case of season 5, I don't think enough time has passed to be able to say that it was better than the other seasons. FYI: my favorite was season 4, I dig the long arcs.
I really liked the second season during it's original airing, but revisiting it has been...much more boring than I remembered. I guess it's just not as rewatchable as the other seasons. Also, "Judgment" and "Happy Anniversary" kinda sucked, although "Dear Boy," "Darla," "Reunion," "Disharmony," & "Belonging" (to name a few) are masterpieces.
I think the best part about season two was Angel's spiral down to "the dark side". He had a soul...but to see him be so depressed and hopeless that he would turn away from his friends and everything he believed in was heart wrenching. That is the closest we saw of him being like Angelus(even more so than at the end of season 5 when it seemed like he had given into W&H and become evil). Although, I'm sure if Joss had more time to focus on that particular storyline, we would have seen much more of this side of Angel in season 5. Anyway, I got shivers down my spine when Angel let Darla and Dru have their own party with the lawyers as the main course. I understand he wanted to save Darla and thought that would help save himself and when he failed he thought nothing mattered. He had his reasons. I enjoyed season 2, but the best episodes for me were seeing that dark side of Angel.
I agree with EdD in that each season offers up its strong and weak points. My favorite stuff:

In general: Angel, Doyle, Cordy, Wesley, Fred, Lorne, Kate, Lindsey, Lilah, and Sahjhan.

Season 1: “Heroes”, “I Will Remember You”, “Five by Five”, and the sequence with the VAST song in “Lonely Hearts” :)

Season 2: “Are You Now or Have You Ever Been”, “Guise Will Be Guise”, “The Trial”, “Reunion”, “Epiphany” ("I never invited you in."), and Pylea.

Season 3: “That Vision Thing”, “Carpe Noctem”, “Birthday”, “Waiting in the Wings”, “Sleep Tight”, and “Forgiving”

Season 4: Dark Wesley, “Supersymmetry”, “Spin the Bottle”, “Apocalypse, Nowish”, “Habeas Corpses”, Angelus, “Players”, and Jasmine.

Season 5: “Lineage”, “You're Welcome!”, “Smile Time”, Fred/Illyria, “Origin”, “The Girl in Question”, “Power Play”, and “Not Fade Away”.
according to GEOS.tv, which is a pretty neat site - the order of popularity goes:

Season 4
Season 2
Season 5
Season 3
Season 1

It's hard to distinguish between season 3 and 4 for me, they just seem like one season put together - especially considering 'Tomorrow' is more like a normal episode than a season finale

But 5 would probably be my favourite... gah, it's too hard to choose
"EdDantes the only reason I said that was because on most Angel boards and websites i've been to. Most people seem to consider the Second season their favorite"

Yeah, it's interesting, I hadn't heard that before. I wonder why so many people think that.

"FYI: my favorite was season 4, I dig the long arcs."

Me too. It's clear that's what suits Joss best too. Their forced return to standalones in S5 was a weaker (WB enforced) element of that season. Although some of the ones I mentioned were classics.

", I got shivers down my spine when Angel let Darla and Dru have their own party with the lawyers as the main course. "

Great scene, but I gotta say, I'm one of those warped guys that didn't actually have that much of a problem with that decision anyway. They were evil lawyers. Let'em reap what they sow. But then I did enjoy Angel's S2 attitude....and 'Dark Wes'....quite a lot. So maybe I'm just a disturbed person;-)
Whenever I rewatch any of the seasons I alway enjoy them so much. I gotta say there is something that gets me everytime in season 3, when they bring back Darla pregnant and she is in the Mexican bar, and the guy bugs her about staying with him and having one little drink, one little drink can't hurt anyone...after she bites him she sucks the lemon!

That tiny scene never ceases to amuse me!

I am looking forward to season four released on dvd - I only saw it on TV years ago and these shows are always better on dvd, you can watch them uninterupted. Plus when it orginally aired there were the annoying long gaps between episodes. Off the top of my head I'm thinking 4 was my least favorite season but the jury is out until I really get to see it in total.

At this time in order my favorites are:

5
3
2
1
4
I can see why season two is popular. The elevator scene with Holland Manners, and the events surrounding it, have always been the high point of the show's entire run for me.

We have no intention of doing anything so prosaic as 'winning.'

The world doesn't work in spite of evil...it works with us. It works because of us.

Classic stuff.
I'm not gonna get all wordy on you here soo...

Season 1: good
Season 2: also good
season 3: sucked! Ok, maybe not sucked but kinda stinky
season 4: Rocking. Best season
Season 5: Meh! barfable at times
Hm. I've found season 2 to have the least amount of melodrama out of the bunch. I'd say it is my favorite, followed by 5, I think.
My own ranking (which may well change once I re-watch Season 4 on DVD):

1. Season 2: mostly consistent, loved the Angel dark-side arc, and some classic eps (Darla, Reunion, Reprise, the Trial, Guise will be Guise, etc.). Plus, introduction of Lorne. Pylean eps didn't do much for me, though.
2. Season 5: Maybe a tie with season 2. After a so-so start, had a fabulous run of eps marred by only a few duds. Loved the arcs, a little troubled by the many loose ends but that's hardly the writers' fault, and the W&H setting gradually became interesting. Origin, Not Fade Away, You're Welcome, Damage, Destiny, Shells, A Hole in the World – all great. Plus.... Smile Time!
3. Season 3: unlike some, I got totally wrapped up in the Darla pregnancy arc and the Wes betrayal one. Lullabye, Sleep Tight, and Forgiving were riveting, and I thoroughly enjoyed Birthday and Waiting in the Wings. Still, its finale was one of the worst episodes ever, it was the beginning of St. Corduffy, and it had a few real duds, like Dad and Provider.
4. Season 1: Got off to a solid, but slow start, with the noir-detective agency feel and MOW eps. Nothing too inspired (and a few painful ones, like Bachelor Party or I Fall to Pieces), but it ended with a bang - To Shanshu in L.A., Sanctuary, and, one of my alltime favorites: Five by Five.
5. Season 4: I'm not saying this season didn't have some riveting drama or classic eps. Orpheus, Deep Down, the return of Faith and Willow, the Wes/Lilah arc – all great. But Cordelia, Connor, and Jasmine ruined the season for me, and the pacing was off - got too quickly into all darkness, all drama, all the time. I'm looking forward to having my mind changed, though, on subsequent rewatchings.
it's always so fascinating to me that so many different and intense preferences about quality exist in the whedonverse fan communtity. sometimes i wonder if we all watch the same show! :)

anyway, i also liked season 2 lots when i first saw it. but i recently watched them all on dvd, and often found myself impatient with the storylines. it wasn't as good as i remembered, for some reason. i'll reserve judgment about season 4 til i'm able to watch them all back to back on dvd, but as it stands now, it's my least favorite season. the long dark dramatic story arc was just a little too soap operaish for my tastes. the show lost a lot of it's humor, in my opinion, and the writers made some devastating character mistakes (cordy/connor! aaaaa, NO, never should have happened). jasmine was just plain boring.

i really love the standalone episodes, as long as the season isn't composed entirely of them. except for season 1, i think the show has never resorted to a collection of standalones -- even the singular episodes advance the longer story arc in ways, some more than others. i think standalones offer the varying writers a chance to tell a discrete story they've been working on, and often the old-fashioned richness and resolution of story-telling saturates the standalones. i like 'em.
aapac - Thanks for GEOS.tv site. That was pretty interesting.

It should be noted that the difference between the seasons in the voting (huge number of votes, btw. well into the thousands) is minimal at best.


Oh, my order...

1) Season 5 - The Wolfram & Hart angle completely reinvents the show right when it was in danger of going stale. Plus Spike (to quote Joss "Angel's best ingeniue") and the remarkable Wes/Fred/Illyria plotline.

2) Season 4 - Great, huge fun. Perhaps the most theologically complex tale in the history of the verse. There are certainly problems here(yeah, Evil Cordy sucks. let's move on) but they are more than made up for by the remarkabe twists & turns of this epic (and truly deserving of that title) tale.

3) Season 2 - Darla saves the show. Giving the lead & series a focus it had never had up till now. One of my favorite things about Angel is the storytelling risks it's willing to take, and nothing epitomizes that more than the switching from the darkest noir (Angel's attempted sucide in Reprise) to the Wizard of Oz riff that is the Pylea arc. Having seen Pylea again recently, I have to comment on the remarkable sweetnees of Amy Acker and how this is probably the high point of the Cordelia character on the show (if for the outfits alone).

4) Season 3 - Ross Berryman becomes the DP and the show begins to take on a truely cinematic look (the first two season often look unbelievably cheap). Plus, Waiting In The Wings, Lulaby, and Loyality which is where Wes makes the transistion from a good Whedon character to one of the classic Whedon characters.

5) Season 1 - To be honest, the one piece of the Mutant Enemy universe that I consider pretty much a washout. Bland, unispired episodes (several of which feel like the staff's recycled X-Files specs). Cordy & Wes remain comic caricatures rather than real characters. And with the noteable excpetion of Five By Five, the big episodes just don't work.
Alright, everyone else is doing it, so why not me?

1) Season 5 - It was as if Joss took all of my complaints from the past 2 seasons and threw all of them out the window. The arc was strong, the humor was back (finally!), Spike was around, Amy Acker got to blow us all away with her acting skills, Gunn finally had something to do, Lindsey returned, Cordelia and Connor were restored to being great characters. Oh, and Puppet Angel!

2) Season 2 - Love the entire Darla arc, and the more Drusilla the better. The Pylea arc is fun but completely out of place in the season. I would have much rather seen a plotline where Darla and Dru rise to power in L.A. with a horde of vampire minions by their side. Oh well.

3) Season 1 - Alright...so there's no big arc and some of the stand-alones aren't too great, but what makes this season for me are the characters. Cordelia is maturing but still hilarious and full of life, I completely relate to Angel's social struggles, Doyle is a charismatic delight, and Wesley is an inspired and amusing addition. I really love the family dynamic in these episodes. I missed that in some of the later seasons.

4) Season 3 - I just got done rewatching this one a couple of days ago, so it's fresh in my mind. The first half of the season is quite strong and fascinating, but I still think of it as the year where things start to annoy me. It all slides downward with 'Waiting In The Wings'. Cordelia's character becomes a terrible joke, the Angel/Cordy romance is cringe-inducing and gives me dry heaves, Fred and Gunn are more boring and cheesy than any couple in the Buffyverse. But still, you got Wes going dark, the Connor-napping, the delight of Lorne and Groo, and tons of Lilah goodness to keep things going strong. And Connor is only in 3 episodes, not giving him a chance to annoy me to death...yet.

5) Season 4 - I'll admit that my feelings may change once I watch this again on DVD, but for now it's my least favorite season. WAY too much Connor whining, the Cordelia character assassination continues, Gwen Raiden is blander than a Saltine, and I'm still not sure the arc adds up or makes any sense. But still, not without merit. Dark Wes, the return of Faith and Willow, Spin The Bottle. Hopefully I'll like this year more when I rewatch it.
"Season 2 - Love the entire Darla arc, and the more Drusilla the better. The Pylea arc is fun but completely out of place in the season. I would have much rather seen a plotline where Darla and Dru rise to power in L.A. with a horde of vampire minions by their side. Oh well"

Well joss has said the only reason he did Pylea was because both Christian Kane and Julie Benz were suddenly unavailable for the last eps of the season. He had planned a big plot climax with the two of them in it. When they left he had to come up with something and decided to do 'something fun'.

"It all slides downward with 'Waiting In The Wings'."

Funny, that's probably my favorite episode of the season.

"Cordelia's character becomes a terrible joke, the Angel/Cordy romance is cringe-inducing and gives me dry heaves,"

The Cordy-Angel thing had many people tearing at their hair. I have never understood why. I could take it or leave it myself. Perhaps people got the same feeling from it that I would have gotten had Buffy and Xander gotten together or something. (Brrr) But how did Cordy become a 'terrible joke'? And in that paticular episode no less?
I love season 3, but I think everybody can agree that it took a downward turn after Sleep Tight(which is my personal choice for best and favorite episode ever). Sleep Tight would of been an awesome season finale, but they had 6 more episodes left to do, and it seemed like ME ran out of ideas. And when they finally do get back on track, there wasn't enough time left, so the episodes were spent to set up season 4.
Mindpieces -Although I disagree with you, I wanted to say how nice your brief write up of season 1 was. My favorite moment of that season (with the excepetion of Angel's imaginary dancing in 'She') is Angel making eggs in 'Parting Gifts' which I am sure is part of the "family dynamic" that you wrote of.

[ edited by Unitas on 2004-07-14 23:47 ]
400lb-Gorilla & EdDantes - Good points about the finales of S2 & 3. One of the main reasons I rate S4 &5 higher is that the finales are much stronger that that of S2 &3 with those two seasons really topping out around episode 16 with Epiphany & Sleep Tight, respectively. Despite that, I enjoyed the Pylea arc immensely (Numfar rules!) & felt that the idea to drop Angel to the bottom of the sea was brillant, even if the lead up wasn't all that.
But how did Cordy become a 'terrible joke'? And in that paticular episode no less?

I actually didn't mean to lay the blame on 'Waiting In The Wings'. I enjoy the episode, but it's also the one that really kicks off the Angel/Cordy and Fred/Gunn romances, both of which I dislike. Cordelia's character certainly didn't go downhill in just one episode, I'd say it was more of a season long progression. But by the time we get to 'Tomorrow' and she's talking to herself in the mirror and floating up to the heavens in her white robes...well, that seems like a terrible joke to me.

I do agree that Buffy & Xander getting together would have been really wrong. I got the same feeling from Angel & Cordy, like watching relatives make-out or something.
I'll admit that my feelings may change once I watch this again on DVD, but for now it's my least favorite season. WAY too much Connor whining, the Cordelia character assassination continues,

I really thought the writers did a horrible job with Connor. He was grout as opposed to being a tile; from week to week he assumed different shapes to make the pieces fit. It was great to see Vincent Kartheiser get a chance to redeem Connor in season 5.

I never really liked the Evil Cordy thing, but I think it's because we were robbed of Good Cordy coming back and putting some kinda smack down on Jasmine. As it stands, Coma Cordy was a bad, bad send off for a beloved character. I still wonder what things would have been like if Charisma hadn't got pregnant: Same Evil Cordy arc? Would they have kept Charisma on for season 5?

I recently rewatched season 4 thanks to TNT and my DVR, and it did appeal to me much more than it did originally—mainly because the heavy, arc-y drama is much better when you don't have to wait a week or more for the next episode.

[ edited by Ubqtous on 2004-07-15 05:49 ]
Ubqtous - The evil Cordy arc was planned from the beginning of S4 and then the writers had to make some last minute adjustments to fit Miss Carpenter's pregnancy. I suspect the arc would have played much differently for most fans if the whole pregnancy issue hadn't reared it's head.

David Fury & Tim Minear(on the Succusbus Club radio show) talked about their frustration with what do with Cordelia in S4. They planned to bring her back with amensia or as a permanent 17 year old and finally, decided to bring her back possessed (although clearly they used the first two ideas in a more limited manner). From Whedon's comments post-season 4 as while as Minear's & Fury's, it's pretty clear the writing staff felt they had gone as far they could go with the character, & I have too much respect for them to disagree.

Mindpieces - I read my quote above & wanted to elaborate on calling your S1 mini-reveiw 'nice'. You know, how sometimes you read something and even though you don't agree with it, you kinda wish you saw it the way that person did. That's what I meant by nice.
I think a classier death, if the writers had given up on the character that much, would have been her getting a vision of her own death. Something that couldn't be helped. Or hell, even kept her as part of the PTB instead of the "I'm bored, get me outta here" St. Cordy. Kiss Angel, pass on visions, and then move on. I always loved the character of Cordelia, and as an original cast member, she pretty much got the short-end of the stick, season 5 redemption or not.
Long time lurker...very much enjoy the dialogue here.

Re Cordy, I've got to agree with the "short end of the stick" randygiles. I was never creeped out about the Angel/Cordy "possibility", if you will. I was frankly amazed yet again by the writers, much as I was w/ Spike and Buffy. Given that I feel the connection w/ Buffy/Angel as much as the writers intended us to, the gradual progression to Buffy/Spike was such that I felt very comfortable with that as well. Same w/ Angel/Cordy. (And it's amazing how I go through the whole thought process every single time I rewatch the DVDs.) I was, however, creeped out by Cordy/Connor, and was disappointed, to say the least, with Cordy's coma/exit. That special spark that she brought was gone and while Harmony can be amusing, she didn't fill the void. It frankly took Illyria's arrival for me to be so engrossed that I didn't think about the void Cordy's absence created during every commercial. The 100th episode was fabulous, and it gave me some measure of closure, but it's a shame that Cordy wasn't around for Illyria's arrival, which would have been very touching and quite funny, and what ended up being the final season.
"I actually didn't mean to lay the blame on 'Waiting In The Wings'. I enjoy the episode, but it's also the one that really kicks off the Angel/Cordy and Fred/Gunn romances, both of which I dislike."

Yeah I admit I wasn't crazy about either. Nothing against Gunn, but in a triangle like Wes-Gunn-Cordy I just loathe it when the cocky self assured guy walks away with the girl who never notices the shy booky guy....'s just wrong I tell ya.

Angel-Cordy I think I could've handled.

"I do agree that Buffy & Xander getting together would have been really wrong. I got the same feeling from Angel & Cordy, like watching relatives make-out or something."

Yeahh that one I would not have liked. And I know both Sarah and Nicki tried to nudge Joss that way.....brrrr.....

"From Whedon's comments post-season 4 as while as Minear's & Fury's, it's pretty clear the writing staff felt they had gone as far they could go with the character, & I have too much respect for them to disagree."

Yeah I felt so too really. Not everything had been great, but they'd been there and back again with her. Maybe why I didn't miss her all that much in S5. And I thought she got a nice send off actually.
Buffy & Xander were orignally meant to be a couple in season 7, thank god Joss changed his mind and went with Buffy & Spike, seeing Buffy & Xander together would have just been wrong, and without Xander, Anya would have had even less to do.
If after all those years Buffy finally realized a romantic love for Xander, I never would have believed it. I think that would be the time when I'd yell shark. Thank god they didn't do that. On the flipside, I think Xander was probably always in love with Buffy, or at least idolized her. If Buffy had suddenly fallen for him, I'm sure he would have jumped at the chance.
From Whedon's comments post-season 4 as while as Minear's & Fury's, it's pretty clear the writing staff felt they had gone as far they could go with the character, & I have too much respect for them to disagree.
I love and respect the writing staff, don't get me wrong, but on this I definitely disagree with them. My biggest Gripe with AtS, even more than whiney Connor or boring Jasmine, is what happened to Cordy's character, once one of the most beloved of the show, in season 3/4. Normally, I hate it when fans complain every time one of their characters shows any sort of growth or change, but this is one case where I feel like they really took a fabulous character and ruined her.
It started long before evil Cordy, when the writers started to turn Cordy into her own version of superhero in s.3, training with Angel, getting all glowy and saint-like, and losing all of her former edge and snarkiness. Plus the angel-Cordy thing....
I know the pregnancy threw the writers for a loop in S.4, and i think they had started writing themselves into a corner with her character even before then, but i can't believe they couldn't have been creative enough to get her out of it in a better way than they did, with semi-amnesia, possession, evilness, coma, death - all of which was both cliched and didn't work very well. And the loss of Cordelia (the earlier version of Cordy at least) was a big hole in the show. Look at the ways the writers managed to keep growing/changing/evolving with characters like Spike, or Wes, or Willow... It's impossible for me to believe that they'd so exhausted Cordy's character that this was the only route left to them.
It's impossible for me to believe that they'd so exhausted Cordy's character that this was the only route left to them.

I agree. The writers dug themselves into a hole. Tim Minear has even said more than once that it was a mistake to make Cordy a higher being. Maybe they felt that once they had used up all these cliches on her, there was no way to redeem that mistake.
I agree that Cordy had come to the end of her logical arc, but the way she went out just didn't do her justice.

That said, I think the writers had good intentions with what they put out; sometimes things don't work in practice as they do in theory.

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