ANGEL: SEASON 2
Directed by Various
Produced by Tim Minear, Shawn Ryan, & Skip Schoolnik
Written by Various
Director of Photograpy Herbert Davis
Music by Robert J. Kral
Cast: David Boreanaz, Charisma Carpenter, Alexis Denisof, J. August Richards & Julie Benz
2000-2001/990 mins/Color/Dolby 2.0
1.78:1/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment DVD
Now that BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER has left the airwaves, fans of the series must get this vampire fix however they can. Thankfully, Fox is doing a great job of releasing BUFFY and its spin-off program, ANGEL to DVD, and ANGEL: SEASON 2 has just hit stores.
(SPOILER WARNING: ANGEL Season 2 can't be discussed without mentioning the conclusion of Season 1. So, if you haven't seen Season 1 and want to be surprised, you may want to skip down to the technical section of the review.)
ANGEL: SEASON 2 continue the tale of Angel (David Boreanaz), the vampire with a soul, who works in Los Angeles, helping those with problems of a supernatural nature, along with his assistants, Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter), a conceited wannabe actress who is cursed with psychic visions, and Wesley Wyndam-Price (Alexis Denisof), a former "Watcher" who now assists Angel in fighting demons. They also receive assistance from Gunn (J. August Richards), a streetwise demon-fighter who has a hatred for the undead. Along with the average demons which haunt the streets of L.A., Angel's arch-nemesis is the law firm of Wolfram & Hart, most notably attorney Lindsey McDonald (Christian Kane). Wolfram & Hart traffic in the supernatural and have targeted Angel as their enemy.
At the conclusion of Season 1, Wolfram & Hart managed to resurrect Darla (Julie Benz), the vampire who sired Angel. Their plan is to use Darla as a weapon against Angel, by tormenting him psychologically, and thus, hoping to transform him into Angelus, the evil, dark version of Angel. But, as with any great plan, things go awry. When Angel learns of Darla's return, he is conflicted. This is a woman whom he spent 150 years with, and then killed her when she threatened Sunnydale (this occurred on BUFFY). Her resurrection sends Angel down a path of self-discovery which will challenge his soul and his working relationship with Cordelia, Wesley, and Gunn.
The first season of ANGEL was a nice experiment in horror based TV. The show was reminiscent of the detective dramas which littered television in the '70s, except that the hero of this show just happened to be a vampire. There were some ongoing stories and recurring characters in that first season, but for the most part, each week Angel would learn of someone who was in trouble and help them. So, it was one individual case after another. The inclusion of an overall story arc makes Season 2 much better, as it plays very much like an old-time serial. Many of the episodes end with cliffhangers, compelling the viewer to keep watching. The story is given ample time to unfold, and the writers do a good job of letting the Darla-storyline progress at a very natural pace. The plot takes some surprising turns, and it's not clear from the beginning just how Darla will fit into the story, or how far Angel will be pushed. Season 1 offered an ample amount of drama, but there is much more feeling to the stories in Season 2, nicely mixed with the action and monsters, and this gives the plot a great deal of driving force.
And while the main plot-line focuses on Angel, the supporting characters are given more room to grow in Season 2. A stand-alone episode featuring Wesley, "Guise will be Guise", is reminiscent of "The Zeppo" episode from the third season of BUFFY, and it allows Wesley to move beyond Angel's office. A new character, known simply as The Host (Adam Hallet) in this season, brings a new level of humor to the show. The Host is a sassy demon who runs a karaoke bar, for he can only read someone's aura after they have sang. (This sounds truly bizarre, but it adds a much needed levity to the show.) Gunn is a nice inclusion as well, as it adds someone else to the mix who can actually fight alongside Angel. Only Cordelia remains virtually unchanged this season.
And now here's the big question, "Do I have to be a BUFFY/ANGEL devotee to enjoy ANGEL: SEASON 2?" The answer is, no but it would certainly help. The BUFFY/ANGEL saga has built quite a mythos and a great deal of that comes out in Season 2. The episdoes eventually explore the complex history between Angel and Darla (through a series of historical flashbacks), but if you don't know who Darla is going in, you may be very lost. For fans of the shows, ANGEL: SEASON 2 is required viewing. The story is irresistible and the episodes feature some great action. This second season of ANGEL is a great example of how enjoyable television can be -- and it's even more satisfying that the main character is a vampire.
ANGEL: SEASON 2 comes to DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The six-disc set contains all 22 episodes from Season 2. The shows have been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. (But, be warned the DVD box states that the image is 1.78:1 Full-frame. What?) The image quality here is fantastic, as the episodes show no signs of any overt grain, nor are there any defects from the source print. The picture is very sharp and clear, giving the image great deal of definition and depth. The colors are good and the dark photography is never too dark, always allowing the action to be seen. In short, this transfer surpasses digital broadcast quality. The episodes are accompanied by Dolby 2.0 Surround tracks, but these audio tracks sound more like Dolby 5.1 mixes. The dialogue is clear and audible, although there are some moments where the dynamic range fluctuates and the speech is softer than the sound effects. Speaking of the sound effects, the surround and stereo effects are constant and very noticeable, and there is a great deal of bass response as well. The ANGEL: SEASON 2 DVD set carries one of the most impressive audio/video transfers that I've seen on a TV compilation.
The BUFFY/ANGEL DVD sets have never been overrun with extras, and ANGEL: SEASON 2 is the lightest of the bunch. Disc 1 features an audio commentary from writer Tim Minear for the episode "Are You Now or Have You Ever Been?", while director Fred Keller lends a commentary to "Over the Rainbow" on Disc 6. Both of these chats are good, as the speakers impart a lot of information about the episodes. Minear, who is also a producer on the show, does an especially good job of discussing the motivating factors behind the episode and the season. There are original scripts for the episodes "Darla" (Disc 2) and "Disharmony" (Disc 5). Disc 3 offers two featurettes. "Making the Monsters" is a 7-minute segment in which make-up supervisor Dayne Johnson discusses both the traditional and special effects make-up on the show, and there is a glimpse of how the make-up for The Host is created. Production designer Stuart Blatt gives us a tour of the sets in "Inside the Agency" (15 minutes), including the Hyperion Hotel, the karaoke lounge and Cordelia's apartment. Disc 3 also contains two still galleries, one featuring production stills and the other containing blueprints of the sets. More featurettes can be found on Disc 6, including a 15-minute overview of Season 2 and a 5-minute look at the fighting and stuntwork from the show with stunt coordinator Michael Vendell. Be warned all of the featurettes contained clips from the entire season, so I would recommend watching all of the shows before viewing the bonus features.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2003. ©