Buffy The Vampire Slayer is returning… in some form. Whether it is the (second) reboot of the premise or a spin-off remains to be seen. However one thing is certain; no matter what path it takes, it has a lot to live up to. The Joss Whedon TV series starring Sarah Michelle Gellar as the titular slayer, is one of the most beloved shows of all time.
So while we wait for news on what the new Buffy The Vampire Slayer might bring, we’ve been looking at the first five seasons of that classic show and its spin-off . In our latest look back at the Buffyverse, we head back to that spin-off series Angel, and the second season that ran concurrent with Buffy’s fifth. After establishing itself successfully in its debut run, the second was far more independent of its parent show. There were no crossovers from Buffy or any other cast members, save Willow’s visit in the season’s closing moments and a visit to Faith in prison during the season opener (though season one’s ‘Five by Five’ / ‘Sanctuary’ established her as a part of Angel’s universe as much as Buffy’s).
J August Richards’ streetwise Gunn added to the main cast roster as Angel Investigation moved into the abandoned Hyperion Hotel, that would be their home until the end of season four. However while they still ‘helped the helpless’ on cases of the week, the show became more arc driven thanks to the presence of Angel’s sire Darla, resurrected in the closing moments of season one and the machinations of Wolfram & Hart causing greater havoc for everyone involved. This led to some truly dark episodes – the surprise return of Drusilla as a villain really upped the stakes, leading to some of the best run of episodes in the show’s history as she teamed up with Darla to wreak havoc on LA.
But it wasn’t all dark too; the debut of Andy Hallett’s singing demon Lorne added some real warmth and humour to the show and once the dust had settled on Angel’s war with Darla, the show took an unexpected lighter, more adventurous route in the Pylea arc that dominated the final episodes of the season.
Being more arc-driven makes the top five pick for season two a little harder, but here are the five best episodes (and the one worst) of Angel‘s second run.
2×07 – Darla
Running the same night as Buffy The Vampire Slayer‘s ‘Fool For Love’, this episode features Spike and Drusilla in Darla’s own origin story, while present day Angel tries to save Darla after her allegiances to Wolfram & Hart are laid bare. We get a glimpse at the earliest point in the Buffyverse as Mark Metcalf’s Master sires a dying Darla in the 1600s and then expands on Angel’s own siring in Ireland, first glimpsed in Buffy season two’s ‘Becoming’.
It offers an interesting and new perspective on the events of the Boxer Rebellion from ‘Fool For Love’ as a recently re-ensouled Angel tries to return to the company of his fellow vampires and is unable to meet Darla’s demands that he kill a baby. It is a fascinating as this exploration of Angel and Darla’s shared history; the performances of David Boreanaz, James Masters, Juliet Landau and Julie Benz as the four vampires could have sustained a series of its own. It is also a tragic tale, Darla finally seeking redemption as she learns that she is dying of the same syphilis she had back when the Master sired four centuries earlier.
Angel fails to save the girl (again), but the worst would be still to come.
2×09 – The Trial
Skipping ahead a couple of episodes, this instalment sees Angel tracking down a dying Darla, and facing a series of supernatural trails in exchange for her life. It’s a dramatic and emotional episode, Angel pushing himself further than ever before for the woman that has had the biggest impact on his long life.
The trials are brutal, thrilling stuff, the fate of Darla’s life really upping the stakes, but it’s the final moments of the episode that really ensures it makes the list. After realising that Darla cannot be saved, they share a final, emotional goodbye that ends their story on a bittersweet moment. Cue Lindsey and the shocking return of vampire Drusilla; Angel watching in horror as Dru vamps Darla, turning her back into a villain and changing the course of the show forever.
2×10 – Reunion
How do you top one of the greatest cliffhangers in Angel‘s history? Well you give the audience two as ‘Reunion’ continues to tear up everything the show has established. Angel desperately searches for Darla before she rises as a vampire and Drusilla cements her alliance with Wolfram & Hart. Angel fails and Darla returns as a vampire, teaming up with Dru to wreak havoc on LA.
Again, it’s the ending that makes this such a brilliant episode. Holland Manners makes his exit (at least as a living member of Wolfram & Hart) as his party for his colleagues, Lindsey and Lilah included, goes sour. Dru and Darla arrive, turn on their masters and threaten to kill everyone. Angel arrives at the last moment to save the people he hates the most – or at least that’s how you assume it would go down. Despite the desperate plea from Lilah, he locks the doors and walks away, the screams of the dying lawyers ringing out behind him.
It’s a dark and disturbing turning point on Angel’s journey but it isn’t over yet. When Wesley, Cordelia and Gunn question his actions, he does the unexpected again. “You’re all fired.” Talk about shaking up the status quo.
2×15 – Reprise
After the subsequent episode ‘Redefinition’, things slow a bit as Drusilla leaves LA for a guest appearance in Sunnydale and Angel continues his one-an crusade against Wolfram & Hart, while his fired team go out alone. This particularly dark arc starts to come to a head in ‘Reprise’, an episode that sees Angel take an opportunity to find a way to Hell to destroy the Senior partners for good.
It’s a bleak episode in many ways; Angel goes up against his old team, threatening any chance of a reunion, while recurring character Detective Elizabeth Lochley is fired after her involvement in the supernatural cases she has found herself part of. Angel meanwhile is greeted by the ghost of Holland Manners and takes the lift down to Hell – only to discover that he’s already in it. It’s a cruel twist but one that sees Angel at breaking point; in his despair he sleeps with Darla, setting up the unholy pregnancy / Connor arc from season three.
‘Reprise’ is another episode with plenty of nail-biting cliff-hangers too; without Angel to help her, Cordy faces grave danger as her case goes drastically south, Lochley, having lost everything tries to commit suicide and even more shocking, Angel awakes from his night if passion with Darla with the same pained expression he had when he lost his soul after having sex with Buffy in Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season Two. Teasing a return to Angelus was an icing on the cake – though we wouldn’t see that properly until Season Four.
2×20 – Over The Rainbow
On first viewing, the Pylea arc that ended season two seemed like a rather drastic u-turn from the darker storyline focusing on Drusilla and Darla. But on repeated viewings it is clear just how much of a palate cleanser it was and was perhaps the most fun ever had on Angel. Picking the best story from this arc is a tough choice because they all have great moments (I nearly went for ‘Through The Looking Glass’ purely for Numfar’s dance of joy). But what makes ‘Over The Rainbow’ stand out over the arc and indeed make it one of the best episodes of the season, is just how enjoyable it is to watch.
Poor Cordy goes through quite the journey this episode, first sold as a cow, proclaimed the cursed run after she experiences a vision and then, in the terrific closing moments of the episode, greets the rest of the gang in a sparkling princess tiara on a throne. It’s ridiculous but very fun and Cordy’s journey also sees her meet up with Amy Acker’s Fred, making her proper debut on the show. There is also a real sense of camaraderie between Gunn, Wesley and Angel after the tumultuous events of season two and Angel’s delight at being able to walk in the sun is lovely “Hey, does everybody notice how much fire I’m not on?”
As for the worst episode of Season Two? Well that’s an equally tough pick. While it veers from dark and dramatic to light-hearted romp there is a real consistency to Season Two and there’s isn’t a bad episode in the bunch.
2×12 – Blood Money
The trouble with ‘Blood Money’ isn’t that it is a terrible episode, but that it comes immediately after ‘Redefinition’ (another episode that nearly made the top 5), which saw Angel go to war on Drusilla and Darla, taking out their army and setting them on fire. After Darla wondering what Angel was now – neither Angel or Angelus – Drusilla simply vanishes from the show and instead we get ‘Blood Money’, which sees Cordy, Wesley and Gunn attempt to start up their own detective agency and Angel try to get to Wolfram & Hart through Anne, a woman that began over in Buffy The Vampire Slayer‘s second season as Chantelle and aided Buffy during her time in LA at the start of season three.
It’s rather mundane after what had happened for, and brings to a crashing halt the terrific run of episodes that came before it.
And that’s the top five episodes of Season Two. Do you agree with the choices? Let us know in the comments below…