Movies & TV / Columns

A Bloody Good Time 06.28.12: The Top 10 Episodes Of Angel

June 28, 2012 | Posted by Joseph Lee

Opening Logo courtesy of Benjamin J. Colón (Soul Exodus)

Welcome to A Bloody Good Time.

Last week we looked at the top ten episodes of Buffy. Let’s check out the feedback.

Drew suggsted: Just an idea for a future article that’s TV related, you should do something related to The Simpsons Halloween specials. I think it disserves attention since they where honoring somee major titles in horror, while still being funny and in some cases, where rather creepy at times.

Yeah that could definitely be a good idea in the future. Maybe I’ll do it for Halloween (or November 1, which is when that ABGT would go up).

Terra asked: Are we ever going to get the season final of Angel?

We got that like eight years ago. I’m not sure exactly why you’re asking me this.

Guest#3971 said: Dude come on i cant believe zeppo only got an HM it wass the best with Xander saving the day and nobody knew lol it was awsome other wise great list

Considering what great episodes didn’t even get an honorable mention, I think it’s doing pretty good. It reminds me of the Justice League Unlimited episode “The Greatest Story Never Told”, which may have been inspired by it, who knows? Actually, Nicholas Brendon kind of would be a good Booster Gold.

MAC asked: And now to finish the Angel review and then a big old Buffyverse review, right? RIGHT?

Well, after doing the top ten episodes of each show, how does one even do a big review after that? Just an overview of the whole universe? Favorite characters? I’m open to your ideas.

Carlos added: Anya was hands-down my favourite on the show. Her dying sucked. Cause she was the best.

She really was the cutest of the Scoobies.

Billy complained: Seriously? Who cares?!?! You guys are usually pretty good with your content but this is pretty laughable.

Who cares? Oh, all of the fans of the show, the 23 people that commented before you (and three that came after), a lot of the people working for this very website. That’s just off the top of my head.

Guest#0116: replied: I love Tabula Rasa. The amnesia scenario is nothing new but no matter how many times I watch it I still laugh. It might be the best pure comedy Buffy episode. I also love pretty much any episode with Faith.

I do love Tabula Rasa. It’s all about “Randy Giles” as far as the comedy goes.

This week, we’re going straight into the top ten episodes of Buffy‘s spinoff Angel. Angel left Sunnydale after season three and moved to Los Angeles, where he began his own quest to help the helpless. Over the years both Wesley and Coredia would move over to LA (and become even better than they ever were on Buffy) and new faces would be introduced over the years: some good, some evil. Angel was not just another Buffy, it became its own show with a completely different tone and feel to it. Even at Buffy‘s darkest, there was always some hope. Hope always seems to be out of the reach of Angel Investigations, but they keep fighting anyway because it is the right thing to do.

With that intro out of the way, let’s get to it!

Angel Season 5 Opening by finash

Oh yeah, if you’ve never seen the show, there are some serious spoilers here.

Honorable Mentions: Damage, The Trial, Forgiving, Home, Orpheus

#10: Destiny
Original Air Date: November 19, 2003

You’ll notice that this list tends to skew a little towards season five, as that happens to be my favorite of the series. Four was getting there until the Jasmine deal sort of hurt things. Anyway, this episode is great because it’s really the climactic battle between Angel and Spike that needed to happen before the two could really become allies. Prior to this, Spike had learned of the Shanshu prophecy, which says that an ensouled vampire will play a part in the apocalypse and the reward for winning is that he is made human. Spike now has a soul, so he thinks it could be about him.

The two eventually find out about a “cup of perpetual torment” which only the true chosen one can drink from. They had to a buried opera house in Death Valley and the epic showdown begins. While both will continue to bicker over the course of the series, they begin the road to eventually trusting and willing to work together, even if they don’t really like each other. We also get flashbacks to the history of Spike and Angelus, including their first meeting, which was nice. This episode isn’t super dramatic like the rest of the entries are (save one), but it is a very fun and entertaining episode.

Ignore the music, it was the only clip of the fight I could find.

#9: Hero
Original Air Date: November 30, 1999

Doyle didn’t last very long but he’s remained an integral part of the show even with his departure. He’s always been considered the “first soldier to fall” in Angel’s war with evil. Prior to this, he really was the heart of the team, something that I argue wouldn’t be filled until Fred came on board in season 2. This nicely wraps up Doyle’s storyline too. He finally reveals to Cordelia that he is in love with her (and that he’s half-demon) and goes out a hero. Out of all the major characters to die on this show, Doyle is the only one that does go out a hero.

The show also sets up the fact that anyone can die at any time. While Joss Whedon may have wanted to kill off a character on the main cast list in the first season of Buffy, he actually got to do it here and only nine episodes in. This episode really sets up that Angel doesn’t play around and LA is a much darker world than that of Buffy‘s Sunnydale. You don’t need to have a Hellmouth to be full of evil.

#8: Birthday
Original Air Date: January 14, 2002

Another Whedon list, another episode with alternate universes. This one also focuses on Cordelia, as her visions (that she got from Doyle) begin to kill her because she’s not part-demon and can’t handle them. So Skip (yes, there’s a demon named Skip), representative of the Powers that Be, gives her the chance to be a part of a life that did not involve meeting Angel. As it turns out, her life without Angel Investigations would have been great, as she’d be a star of a sitcom and very popular.

Buffy‘s version of Cordy probably would have accepted this. But this Cordy is more matured and more developed as a character and while she likes it at first, she realizes that there is still evil in the world and she has to do her part. The best parts of the episode are finding out what kind of positive influence Cordelia has had on the rest of the team, as without meeting Angel and taking on the burden of the visions, she would have doomed the rest of them to harsh fates (especially Angel). Great alternative universe episode that shows just how far Cordelia has come.

#7: Sleep Tight
Original Air Date: March 4, 2002

Wesley’s heel turn comes to its tragic conclusion here as he does an evil thing for the right reasons. Prior to this episode, Wesley had translated a prophecy about Angel’s son, which read: “The Father Will Kill The Son”. This disturbed him, as you would imagine, because Angel’s son was only an infant at this time. Wesley wasn’t going to allow Angel, or more likely, Angelus, kill a baby, so he did the unthinkable and began working with Holtz to ensure that the baby would be protected at any cost.

Unfortunately things don’t go as planned. Wesley gets his throat slit and Holtz takes baby Connor into a hell dimension. But this episode was an example of how dark this show was getting, as even the heroes have to make some tough choices to ensure that the right thing is done. The follow-up episode, Forgiving, cements Wesley’s status as an outcast, at least for now. Connor would eventually come back, and change the dynamic of the show completely when he does.

#6: Not Fade Away
Original Air Date: May 19, 2004

I can’t in good conscience put this episode any higher because of the sped up and abrupt way the series ended. I’m fine with the “fight must continue” way that the series ends, but I wish there had been another part simply because they could have padded out the story more when they tied everything up. Like Chosen, this had a lot of material contained in one episode and while it does play out very well, it still felt overstuffed and could have benefited from a chance to breathe.

But what we do get is pretty great. First there is the very tragic death of Wesley, which actually bring his character arc full circle. When he debuted on Buffy, no one would have blinked an eye at awkward Wes getting stabbed in the gut. But when this one dies, he’s an accomplished fighter, a three-dimensional character and he dies in the arms of Illyria, who comforts him by becoming Fred and lying to him. It wasn’t the most tragic death on this show (we’ll get there), but it was close.

#5: I Will Remember You
Original Air Date: November 23, 1999

This was pretty much the final nail in the coffin on the Buffy/Angel relationship, and while there’s always some lingering hope for fans of the two, after something like this it pretty much confirms they are doomed as a couple, if you never thought that before. The story sees Angel’s blood mixing with that of a demon when Buffy comes to visit him. He discovers that this blood turns him into a human being. With Buffy in town, the two decide to do all the things he can’t do as a vampire. Needless to say, they have sex. A lot of sex.

But this being the show that it is, you know something bad has to happen to ruin all of this. After a perfect 24 hours, Angel realizes that if he’s human, he can’t help the helpless. So he voluntarily gives up the only things he’s ever wanted in order to continue fighting the good fight. It’s bad enough to see Angel have to make the decision. It’s worse to see Sarah Michelle Gellar begin to sob and lose it as Buffy realizes she won’t even remember what they had. A heartbreaking episode even if you’re not a fan of the melodrama like some criticize it for having.

#4: Smile Time
Original Air Date: February 18, 2004

Even Angel is capable of having some hilarious episodes from time to time. Really, as dark as the show was up to this point, you wouldn’t even think about a lighthearted affair with Angel becoming, of all things, a puppet. Of course this would eventually be the calm before the storm, but it is a really funny episode. There’s all kinds of scenarios you can use with Puppet Angel and the jokes write themselves. If you are invested in this show and don’t shout out “oh no…” when Spike begins to enter the room with Puppet Angel, then this wasn’t doing its job.

Yes, it is silly, and yes, it is ridiculous. But it’s hilarious. Puppet Angel’s vampire face, the fight with Spike, everything about it just made me laugh from start to finish. It’s no surprise that Tick writer and future Supernatural writer (who wrote favorites like “Bad Day At Black Rock” and “The French Mistake”, for the record) Ben Edlund was behind this. This is really the only truly comedy episode on the list, but it proves that the show is just as capable of making you laugh as it is in creating a plethora of other emotions.

#3: You’re Welcome
Original Air Date: February 4, 2004

This is going to sound weird, but when Cordelia is revealed to be dead at the end of this episode, I wasn’t too sad about it. I love the character and think Charisma Carpenter is great, but Cordy’s death isn’t nearly as heartbreaking as others. It could be because Cordy actually gets to say goodbye and is at peace with it. Part of it may be that she’s been in a coma for so long that we know she’s not coming back to the main cast anyway. That doesn’t change the fact this is an excellent send-off for her, because it is.

Not only do we get to see Cordy back to normal and interact with the cast, but it’s the Cordy that has grown over the years and is fully realized as a character. She’s funny, sure, but she’s also become something of a bad-ass during her time in Angel Investigations. She helps save the day, then tells Angel goodbye before setting him on the track to the series finale, in which he has finally resolved to take down Wolfram & Hart. She always was the one that would center Angel, and I’d argue she’s a better romantic match for him than Buffy ever was. Maybe that’s just me.

#2: Soulless
Original Air Date: February 5, 2003

Directed, of all people, by Sean “Samwise Gamgee” Astin. We got to see plenty of Angelus in season two of Buffy and what he’s capable of. To get knowledge of “The Beast”, the team of Angel Investigations decide they need to bring back Angelus to see what he knows. It’s a decision none of them take lightly, as they force Angel to be strapped down inside of a cage before they even think about letting Angelus loose.

Angelus doesn’t once leave his cage in this episode, but he causes all kinds of havoc. He’s that evil. He’s able to use the information that Angel knows as well as his own skills of observation to tear into the psyches of every single one of Angel’s friends. He just takes them down mentally one by one. It’s an amazing sight to see just how evil and smart Angelus is that he can hurt them all without even stepping out of his prison.

#1: A Hole in the World
Original Air Date: February 25, 2004

If there’s one thing I’ll never forgive Joss Whedon for, it’s the deaths of Tara in “Seeing Red” and Fred here, but I think Fred’s death was more tragic in a way. I know that anyone can die on these shows, but you don’t really expect the really good ones (as in, innocent) to go. Neither Tara or Fred ever really hurt anyone and certainly never deserved what they got (nor do any of the main Buffyverse characters that die, but that’s for another day). I think the reason that Fred’s gets me more is that not only does she suffer a violent and painful death, but as we find out later, she was completely eliminated from the world. Compared to that, Tara had it easy with her gunshot wound. At least her soul wasn’t obliterated after. She’s probably in the Buffyverse version of Heaven.

Yes, Fred’s death happens in this episode when she is infected with a mystical illness and it begins consuming her from the inside out. That’s why it’s so tragic. Not only does Fred have to die, but she has to suffer first. Fred, this gentle soul who brings happiness to all who know her. You know it’s good television when an episode hits you with a strong emotional reaction to the events, be they anger, sadness or a weird combination of both. If you aren’t feeling something when Fred asks Wesley why she can’t stay, then you may be soulless yourself.

That’s it for me. What’s your favorite episode of Angel? Leave some comments here on or my Twitter. Next week, I take on the Children of the Corn franchise, which I hate. I am subjecting myself to punishment for your entertainment.

Closing Logo courtesy of Kyle Morton (get your own custom artwork and commissions at his Etsy account)

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