When Angel premiered way back in 1999, no one knew quite what to make of this Buffy the Vampire Slayer spin-off show.
Starring Buffy’s former beau, Angel (AKA the brooding vampire with a soul) was part noir, part detective show with a supernatural twist. But after its shaky first season, the show began to morph into something greater, with many believing it even surpassed its predecessor in terms of quality and storytelling.
While Buffy the Vampire Slayer was often simply a tale of good versus evil, Angel chose a darker and more nuanced approach. Angel was a story about redemption. It was a story about the figurative and literal demons lurking inside everyone. It was a story about the inevitability of evil, and of making choices and dealing with the consequences.
Let’s take a look back at some of the very best episodes of this fantastic show.
13. “Through the Looking Glass” (Season 2 Episode 21)
After all the darkness that occurred earlier in the season with Darla and Drusilla, the Pylea story line was a welcome change of pace. Full of whimsy and fantasy, how else could this episode end but with a decapitated head? And let’s not forget Joss Whedon’s stint as Numfar, doing the dance of joy.
12. “Are You Now or Have You Ever Been” (Season 2 Episode 2)
Set in the 1950s, this episode explores a period in Angel’s history when he had a soul, but was still very much removed from humanity. The period setting was a fun departure from present-day LA, and I loved seeing the cynical, sinister side of Angel, proving that simply having a soul isn’t enough to be a good person. Judy’s fate as the hotel’s prisoner is horrifying, and when Angel finally makes amends for his misdeeds, releasing Judy, it’s incredibly affecting. Plus, it’s the first appearance of the gorgeous Hyperion Hotel that becomes the show’s permanent set until Season Five.
11. “Reunion” (Season 2 Episode 10)
The whole Darla and Drusilla arc in Season 2 was excellent, dragging Angel into an ever spiraling darkness. The scene when Angel locks the lawyers in with the vampires with a nonchalant, “I just can’t seem to care,” was truly shocking, and to top it off, he promptly fires Wesley, Gunn, and Cordelia.
10. “The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco” (Season 5 Episode 6)
The serialized nature of Season 5 produced a lot of great stand-alone episodes, and this was one of the best. While initially it seems like a goofy story about Mexican wrestlers, this episode is a superbly written tale on rediscovering your purpose, especially relevant after Angel has seemed to lose his own sense of heroism.