ANGEL: SEASON 3
Directed by Various
Produced by David Greenwalt et al
Written by Various
Director of Photograpy Herbert Davis
Music by Robert J. Kral
Cast: David Boreanaz, Charisma Carpenter, Alexis Denisof, J. August Richards, Amy Acker & Andy Hallett
2001/990 mins/Color/Dolby 2.0 Surround
1.78:1/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment DVD
Like sequels, television spin-offs are, by definition, inferior products. They take a character or idea from the original show and try to make something new out of it. (Or, in the worst cases, an idea or character is forced into the original show, for the sole purpose of making a new program.) Of course, like any rule, this one has its exceptions, such as FRASIER, which has enjoyed a run longer than its predecessor CHEERS. (Although, I sill prefer CHEERS.) The series ANGEL is destined to become another show that enters this rare brotherhood. During its first two seasons, the show did a fine job of separating itself from BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, which had spawned it. But, by Season 3, ANGEL was ready to overtake its precursor and shine on its own.
(SPOILER WARNING!: In order to describe ANGEL Season 3, I must divulge some of the plot-lines for the shows, as well as discuss events from Season 2. I must also discuss some elements from BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER Season 5. So, if you haven't seen Season 2 and want to be surprised by Season 3, read with caution.) As Season 3 of ANGEL opens, we are re-acquainted with the familiar cast of characters from the series; Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter), the former-socialite turned psychic; Wesley Wyndam-Price (Alexis Denisof), studious expert in demon lore; Charles Gunn (J. August Richards), former gang-member and street-wise demon-fighter; Winifred "Fred" Burkle (Amy Acker), a timid, but brilliant young woman who was recently rescued from an alternate dimension; and Lorne (Andy Hallett), the suave demon who can read people's souls, but only when they sing. In the season opener, Angel (David Boreanaz), the vampire with a soul, returns from the Far East, where he had gone to collect his thoughts after learning of the death of Buffy Summers, the love of his life. When Angel returns to Los Angeles, he is in good spirits and is ready to get back to work helping the helpless. But, Angel is going to need help himself.
Darla (Julie Benz), the vampire who sired Angel and who was his companion for many years, pays a visit to Angel with some odd news -- she's pregnant. As it's impossible for a vampire to get pregnant, Angel and his crew are stumped by this news. However, Angel, who often feels cut off from the rest of the world, is also excited by this prospect, and looks forward to being a father. However, the birth of Angel's son may spell doom for everyone involved, as Angel's enemies at the evil Wolfram & Hart law firm conspire to obtain the child and an evil from Angel's past arrives to set off a chain of events which will have an effect on all of the characters.
With Season 3, ANGEL really comes into its own and becomes a must-see show. Yes, the second season was very good as well, but the overall story arc was unwieldy and inconsistent. Here, the story of Darla's return and the prospect of Angel's child bring in many characters, both new and old, and allow the writers to create a multi-faceted storyline which draws the viewer in and doesn't let go until the finale. And what a finale it is! Season 1 of the show ended with a mild cliffhanger, which was of the "Hmm...I wonder what they'll do with that?" variety. The final episode of Season 2 ended with the news of Buffy's death, which wasn't a shock at all, as she died on another show. But, the ending of Season 3, oh man!! How can they do this?! Season 3 ends with multiple cliffhangers which leave the lives of many characters hanging in the balance.
This ending (?!) puts the capper on a season in which the writers skillfully mixed the horror elements (vampires, demons, etc.) with a very powerful, emotional story. This stems from the fact that the characters on ANGEL have grown over the years. Angel is no longer the brooding "vampire with a soul". He now shows a range of emotions and is quite funny at times. This sense of humor makes Angel's downfall even more moving. Similar changes have taken place with Cordelia's character. Once a stuck-up bitch, Cordelia is now more down-to-earth, which is ironic considering that she now has psychic abilities and receives visions of people in trouble. The most changes occur with Wesley's character in Season 3, as he is faced with some serious choices. The character of Fred is brought into the mix with this season. To be honest, she's quite annoying at first, but grows less so over the episodes. The producers were smart to give Lorne a larger part in the show. This sassy demon brings in the much needed comic relief and brightens every scene in which he appears. I'm sure that there are those who still consider ANGEL "some vampire show", but Season 3 of the program proves that this is a series capable of producing powerful, exciting entertainment and that a spin-off can easily spin into a new, unexpected direction.
ANGEL: SEASON 3 comes to DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. This handsome 6-disc set contains all 22 episodes from Season 3. The episodes are presented in their original 1.78:1 aspect ratio and the shows have been enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The video transfers on these DVD is simply amazing. The image is very sharp and clear, showing virtually no grain and no defects from the source material. ANGEL is a very dark show, but the image is never too dark here and the action is always visible. The colors are very good (check Lorne's make-up for reference) and the skin-tones are realistic. The DVD's audio track is just as good. Even though the DVDs carry a Dolby 2.0 Surround track, it sounds just like a 5.1 track. The dialogue is sharp and clear and there is constant use of surround and stereo effects. The bass comes mainly from the front speakers, but it is rich and satisfying. ANGEL is a show which often uses audio cues to heighten a scene and these tracks only enhance that effects. Overall, a flawless A/V presentation.
This set features many extras. There are audio commentaries for three episodes; "Billy",commentary by Tim Minear and Jeffrey Bell (Disc 2); "Lullaby", commentary by Tim Minear and Mere Smith (Disc 3); and "Waiting in the Wings", commentary by Joss Whedon (Disc 4). All three of these commentaries are fun and educational, although Whedon does sound a bit dour on his talk. It's obvious that the speakers love what they do and have a real passion for working on ANGEL, as they describe the actions, locations, and cast.
The remainder of the extras are spread out through the set. The extras on Disc 3 open with "Darla: Deliver Us From Evil". This 13-minute segment features an interview with actress Julie Benz as she discusses the history and evolution of her character. There is a 5-minute outtake reel (all from Season 3) which features David Boreanaz screaming like a woman. There is a deleted scene from "Birthday", which features optional audio commentary from Tim Minear and Mere Smith. This 4-minute clip is interesting, but it's very clear why it was cut. There is a 2-minute deleted scene from the episode "Waiting in the Wings" on Disc 4, which has optional commentary from Joss Whedon. The rest of the extras can be found on Disc 6. "Season 3 Overview" is a 33-minute featurette in which the writers, producers, directors, and actors chime in with their thoughts about the season's storylines and where the show has gone. (It's interesting to note that The WB asked that BUFFY not be mentioned, as that show had moved to UPN.) "Page to Screen" is a 14-minute segment which explains how the episodes of ANGEL are written, and it's interesting to learn that the scripts often arrive just 1 to 2 days before filming begins. Next, we are treated to the screen-tests for Amy Ackers (2 1/2 minutes) and Vincent Kartheiser (2 minutes), each of whom act out a scene from the show with the other characters. Finally, Disc 6 includes a still gallery.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2004. ©