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Angel: Season Three Essay

Season Three: There's Good News, and Bad News

This was a difficult season to review. There were some truly excellent episodes interspersed with some that were not so good, to put it gently. We had major plot twists a-poppin' up right and left. I think I really liked season three, but I'm not entirely sure.

The good news was that Angel experienced a significant and much deserved increase in ratings and was renewed for a fourth season, despite serious attempts by the WB to kill it dead. (I mean, come on; what network genius told a roomful of executives, "Hey! Let's take this violent supernatural detective series and put it on at nine on Monday night after a sugary religious family show!" Were they trying to kill Angel out of pique at Joss Whedon for moving Buffy the Vampire Slayer to UPN, or what? If so, they didn't succeed... this year.)

The bad news was that, while I still loved the show and many of the new storylines were undeniably exciting, creative, and fun, they seemed to be working at the expense of the character of Angel himself.

Wither Angel?

Angel: "I think I'll just have to go with my patented sudden burst of violence."

I've always adored Angel, so broodingly and hunkily played by David Boreanaz. What happened to him in season three?

The writers and producers did a lot of screwing around with their lead character since he left the streets of Sunnydale, and this season, they did some damage. Angel's reaction to Buffy's death was way too mild, there was this new passion for Cordelia that came out of the blue, plus can you say leather pants, sci-fi movies, and smiling a lot? And ooh, yes, he managed to father a baby, and they still haven't explained that one. All very well and good, I can deal... but wasn't it completely out of character for Angel to attempt to suffocate an injured and helpless Wesley with a pillow?

Plus, David's shirt used to come off constantly; it didn't come off at all this year. Back in Sunnydale, a certain buffed vampire took everything off and experienced a two thousand percent increase in his fan mail. This isn't Chekhov, you know; in season three I kept wanting my gratuitous beefcake back.

Cordelia as hero

There were some wonderful Cordelia-centered episodes in season three, mostly involving her debilitating visions and her acquisition of demon powers to deal with those visions. Cordelia, like Angel, had been steadily changing as a character for the past three years, leaving behind the self-centered ditz and becoming something of a heroine. She has always been one of my favorite characters, and I still love her, although whoever cut and dyed her hair near the end of the season should have been arrested for criminal assault.

Television writers are simply incapable of leaving male/female friendships alone. Angel and Cordelia showed a marked preference for each other's company throughout season three; it was clear that they were moving toward an Angel/Cordelia romance, whether the fans wanted it or not. I must admit that I actually cringed when a possessed Angel and Cordelia were all over each other for the first time in the wonderful ballet episode, "Waiting in the Wings." But I was starting to adjust to the idea; when the season ended and we had Cordelia in white ascending into the heavens, Angel in black descending helplessly into the ocean's depths, the first thing I thought was, "No smoochies?"

Darla and Holtz

Holtz: "For two hundred years, I slept. For two hundred years, I dreamt of nothing but this moment."
Angel: "Which would explain why you look so well rested."

When Darla turned up pregnant at the beginning of the season, I was seriously bummed out. No, not a demonic pregnancy plot, please! I said loudly to myself and to anyone else within earshot. Isn't a vampire pregnancy completely contrary to Buffyverse rules? And hey, Angel and Darla had sex repeatedly for over a century, and suddenly now they can make a baby?

Then it took forever for Darla to have the freaking thing. When it was finally over, and Darla was dead for, what was it, the fourth time, then we were stuck with the baby plot. I hate baby plots on genre shows.

Holtz, his bizarre anti-vampire army, and his revenge against Angel was a big part of this season... and it pretty much left me cold. (I liked Sahjahn the incorporeal smart-mouthed demon a bit more than Holtz.) Was it the one-note acting? The predictable writing? I didn't get excited about it right up until the point where Justine killed Holtz, with Holtz' permission, in order to frame Angel and set Connor forever against him. Hey, that was freaking evil; way to go.

Connor

Connor: "Filthy demon."
Lorne: "Actually, that's uncle filthy demon to you."

Does anyone else find it bizarre that two years ago, Buffy and Angel weren't parents, and in season three they both suddenly had teenagers? Come to think of it, Angel was actually dating a teenager not that long ago. Maybe karma was playing a role there.

The good news (for me, anyway) was that I was crazy about Connor. Half Peter Pan, half Mordred, a sort of supernatural boy-slayer, human-vamp kind of deal; way cool. Vincent Kartheiser, who played Connor, clearly had serious acting talent, and there was some strong chemistry with David Boreanaz, who was great with the super-protective single vampire daddy thing.

Obviously, if Connor was going to return in season four, he and Angel would have to bond. Which meant that they'd have to resolve the vampire-at-the-bottom-of-the-sea issues. (Since Angel was the star of the show, I was pretty sure he'd be coming back up eventually.) Angel and Connor could really work well as a team; Batman and Robin with superpowers but no subtext. Without Buffy, Angel clearly needed someone to love and to hold him to this world, and a child is much less ambiguous than a love interest. Of course, if he hooked up with Cordelia, they'd actually have a demonic nuclear family going there.

The Host was saying at one point that Connor was the only child Angel would ever have. Why? Darla's pregnancy hadn't been explained at this point; how do we know that Angel couldn't go on a sex binge and knock up Buffy, Cordelia, Faith, Fred, and Lilah?

Wesley

Lilah: "Mind if I join you?"
Wesley: "On many levels and with great intensity."

Wesley started out three years ago as a prissy comic relief foil for Angel, a younger and sillier version of Giles who could do all that oh-so-necessary demon research. His character changed and grew tremendously, and Alexis Denisof just got better and better; he took everything the writers threw at him and rose to the occasion. Like in the episode "Billy" where in one episode he went from his normal, gentle self, to chilling misogynistic killer, to complete emotional wreck. Like when he lost the fair Fred to his best friend, Gunn, in "Waiting in the Wings," and had to continue working with both of them. And of course, there was the whole multiple-episode prophecy/kidnapping thing and the resulting deadly conflict with Angel.

Now scarred, tousled, bearded, gravelly-voiced (and may I say, super sexy), Wesley ended season three as persona non grata at Angel Investigations and sleeping with evil lawyer Lilah, who was making serious attempts to recruit him. You came a long way, Wesley. And I loved it.

Wolfram & Hart

Holtz: "You said you work for the law."
Lilah: "No, I didn't. I said I'm a lawyer. I don't care about the law."

Unfortunately, I must continue with, what the hell happened to Wolfram & Hart? Once a terrific villainous institution and tons of evil fun, in season three they were reduced to convenient plot device. Lilah Morgan (Stephanie Romanov) pretty much carried the Wolfram & Hart subplots this year, and she did a darned good job. Unfortunately, the gorgeous, amoral Lindsey McDonald (Christian Kane) and the smirky Holland Manners (Sam Anderson) weren't easy to replace, despite multiple attempts.

Gunn and Fred

Fred: "Don't forget your machete."
Gunn: "Yes, dear."

Groo: "He is very fortunate to have such a woman looking after his weapon."
Lorne: "I'm not touching that one."

Gunn has always been one of my favorite characters, and I really liked the brilliant, nervous, and quirky Fred right from the beginning (The episode with her parents in particular was just terrific.) I was even delighted when the two of them began dating -- at first. But then the relationship got a little sticky for me; must have been those pancake kisses. Gunn was always tough, reckless, and rough around the edges, and suddenly he was saying "yes, dear."

Since no couple ever remains happy in the Buffyverse, though, I knew it wouldn't last forever.

Lorne

Lorne: "This is special firewater, used to loosen the tongue of my Gar-wak snitch. They light the water on fire and there's chanting and a bong, and look out, Houston."

Lorne (Andy Hallett) made every scene better just by being in it. This season, his karaoke bar was completely trashed (twice) and he ended up stuck at the hotel, delivering hilarious one-liners and helping Angel with the baby. Either Lorne got all the best lines or his delivery was just outstanding (probably both); whatever it was, I enjoyed the heck out him. I particularly loved the way he constantly flirted with Angel, and the way Angel bantered right on back ("stop calling me pastries.") Angel needed a friend like Lorne; Lorne was always there for him. The two of them co-parenting Connor was one of my favorite continuing plotlines in season three.

Setups for season four

It was new and infuriating, leaving the fans with such a huge cliffhanger.

I was fairly certain that Angel would be rescued from the ocean's depths; the only question was how. I also assumed that Cordelia, like Buffy, would probably return from heaven in the first episode or two.

At this point, I was certain that the writers were going to get Angel and Cordelia in bed together, possibly resulting in another moment of perfect happiness and a reappearance by Angelus. (I was wrong about the first part, but not the second!)

I couldn't wait to see what would happen to Wesley, and I had no idea what it would be. I was fairly certain he would return to the fold of Angel Investigations, but not for awhile. I didn't think Wesley would be capable of turning to the dark side -- but would he join Wolfram & Hart, and subvert it from the inside?

I was more than ready for Gunn and Fred to come back; they were two characters I always liked. I was also looking forward to seeing what would happen with Connor. He had real potential as a character, but it was just that -- potential.

And I wanted Lorne to come back from Vegas, please, and become a permanent member of the cast. Couldn't he open Caritas right there at the hotel?

Wolfram & Hart, as villains, were in dire need of mouth-to-mouth; by all means, hang on to Lilah Morgan, but please, please bring Lindsey McDonald back! I would also love it if Drusilla returned. And Faith. Darla, however, can stay dead; her character has pretty much run its course.

Of course, what I wanted the most at this point was for UPN to acquire Angel so I could have it back on Tuesday nights and get crossover episodes again. I had faith that the WB would continue to do its best to kill Angel; they'd already made another attempt by moving it to 9:00 on Sunday nights.

Okay, all done. I may have bitched a lot here, but I do love this show. It's one of my favorites, I never miss an episode, and I'm looking forward to next season.

On to season four,

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

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