ANGEL: SEASON FIVE
Directed by Various
Produced by Various
Written by Various
Director of Photograpy Ross Berryman
Music by Robert J. Kral
Cast: David Boreanaz, James Marsters, Alexis Denisof, Amy Acker & J. August Richards
2003-2004/990 mins/Color/Dolby 2.0 Surround
1.78:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Sony Pictures Home Entertainment DVD
While it seems that horror films are constantly shunned by the mainstream, just take a look at the box-office results from the past year and you'll see that they are constantly being released and doing just fine. The same seems to be the case with genre television, as there is often at least one horror show on TV. But, that doesn't change the fact that it hurts to lose a GOOD horror show, and thus we mourn the last season of ANGEL, the spin-off from BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER which grew into a truly satisfying series. The Fifth and final season of the show is now available on DVD.
SPOILER WARNING!: In order to describe ANGEL Season 5, I must divulge some of the plot-lines for the shows, as well as discuss events from Season 4. So, if you haven't seen Season 4 and want to be surprised by Season 5, read with caution.) As the final season of ANGEL opens, our main characters are attempting to settle into their new home at Wolfram & Hart. At the end of Season 4, Angel (David Boreanaz) had made a deal with the evil law firm of Wolfram & Hart to take over their Los Angeles office in exchange for a favor: the powers at Wolfram & Hart cleared up the mess which had been created with Angel's son Connor (Vincent Kartheiser), placing Connor in a "normal" and loving home and erasing Connor from the memories from Angel's colleagues.
Now, Angel, along with Wesley (Alexis Denisof), Gunn (J. August Richards), Fred (Amy Acker), and Lorne (Andy Hallett), have a new base from which to fight evil. But, Angel soon learns that he must walk a fine-line with Wolfram & Hart, as they have given him free rein to continue his heroic pursuits, but he must make a profit and keep the firm's evil clients happy. Things are further complicated for Angel when Spike (James Marsters), last seen exploding in a ball of fire during the finale of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, is suddenly reincarnated as a spirit who haunts the Wolfram & Hart offices. Angel and the group find it more and more difficult to maintain the balance between good and evil and each of them, at one point, finds the temptations of Wolfram & Hart to be overpowering. As the season progresses, one character will die and Angel will be pulled further into the clutches of the evil firm.
I got into the whole BUFFY/ANGEL thing quite late, but fortunately I was able to catch up via the DVD releases. At first, I was smitten with BUFFY and found the show quite enjoyable. But, I felt that BUFFY ran out of steam starting with Season 5 and found the final season to be quite a letdown. In contrast, I feel that ANGEL improved with each season, as the writing got tighter and the characters grew more complex. This trend is exemplified in Season 5, which really impressed me with its intricacies...which is a damn shame. I hate to sound like a fanboy here, but I can't believe that The WB struck ANGEL down in its prime.
The fifth season of ANGEL really proves why the show worked and why it should have been allowed to live on. Executive producer/co-creator Joss Whedon and his crew are able to do the seemingly impossible on ANGEL: they make a show which can be enjoyed on a purely episodic level, but also infuse these episodes with an a story arc which draws the viewer in. By using characters from Angel's distant and recent past, the writers are able to bring in individuals to help propel the story along and to further explore Angel's haunted past. Here's what may be the ultimate example of how good ANGEL is...was -- the inclusion of Spike. On the surface, bringing Spike to ANGEL seems like nothing more than a cheap stunt to entice viewers who watched BUFFY exclusively to ANGEL. However, the stunt works and the tension between Angel and Spike (both of whom are vampires with souls) is hilarious and very entertaining. The moments that these two undead creatures share are some of the best of the season.
Speaking of funny, credit must be given to Ben Edlund, who joined the show in Season 4 and became a supervising producer with Season 5. Comic fans will know Edlund as the creator of "The Tick" and he also served on the two TV incarnations of that comic. Edlund brings a great deal of humor to ANGEL in Season 5, which nicely counter-balances the dark doings at Wolfram & Hart. It's truly a unique show that can have the viewer laughing while they are mourning the death of a major character, and the humor culminates in "Smile Time" AKA The Puppet Episode, which may be one of the greatest things ever put on TV.
However, it's not all fun and games in Season 5, as each character goes through their own dramatic arc and the show isn't afraid to pile on the pathos, especially for Wesley, whom I consider to be the most tortured character on the show. Also, ANGEL has never been a show that shied away from violence and monsters, but there are A LOT of bizarre creatures featured in this run, and there are also some episodes that offer some very twisted plot points. As for the finale to the series, I can understand why many were disappointed in it, but Joss Whedon explains his reasons on the DVD and I like to think of it as a big "Screw You!" to The WB for taking the show off of the air. ANGEL Season 5 is not a good place for newbies to start, as you'll miss many of the important subtleties in the stories, but it does demonstrate that horror TV can be intelligent, moving, funny, exciting, and greatly missed.
ANGEL Season 5 comes to DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. This 6-disc boxed set contains all 22 episodes from Season 5. The episodes have been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfers are enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The images look very good as the picture is free from grain for the most part and the image is quite sharp. The colors look very good and the image has a nice depth. However, as with the BUFFY Season 7 DVD set, some of the dark scenes in ANGEL are very, very dark and it can be hard to follow the action at times. The DVDs carry a Dolby 2.0 Surround audio track which sounds great. The track provides clear dialogue with no distortion. The surround sound action on the DVDs is very impressive, as the action sequences really come to life and receive a great boost from the front channel bass effects.
The six-disc set contains a very nice assortment of extras. Seven episodes contain audio commentaries. They are; "Conviction", commentary by writer/director Joss Whedon (Disc 1); "Destiny", commentary by director Skip Schoolnik, writers David Fury & Steven S. DeKnight, and actress Juliet Landau (Disc 2); "Soul Purpose", commentary by actor/director David Boreanaz, writer Brent Fletcher, and actor Christian Kane (Disc 3); "You're Welcome", commentary by writer/director David Fury, actors Christian Kane & Sarah Thompson (Disc 4); "A Hole in the World", commentary by writer/director Joss Whedon, and actors Amy Acker & Alexis Denisof (Disc 4); "Underneath", commentary by director Skip Schoolnik, writers Elizabeth Crott & Sarah Fain, and actor Adam Baldwin (Disc 5); "Not Fade Away", commentary by co-writer/director Jeffrey Bell.
The remaining extras are all featurettes. "Hey Kids! It's Smile Time" (7 minutes) gives us an in-depth look at the puppet episode (note that many of the puppeteers also worked on GREG THE BUNNY). "ANGEL 100" (6 minutes) examines the 100th episode of the show and gives us a peek at the wrap party. "ANGEL: Choreography of a Stunt" (6 minutes) has stunt coordinator Mike Massa explain the stunts from the episodes "Shells". An in-depth overview of the final season is given in "ANGEL: The Final Season" (27 minutes), but there is no insight, or real discussion for that matter, into the cancellation of the show. Joss Whedon discusses his favorite episodes in "To Live & Die in L.A.: The Best of ANGEL" (9 minutes). Drusilla, Darla, Lilah, and Lindsay are all profiled in "Halos & Horns: Recurring Villainy" (9 minutes). And finally, we have "ANGEL Unbound: The Gag Reels" (6 minutes), which features plenty of David Boreanaz dancing.
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Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2005. ©