Here it is, the end of the slayerverse as we know it. When Buffy ended in 2003, the blow was lessened when it was announced that Spike (James Marsters) would be joining the cast of Angel. But Buffy/Angel fans were dealt another bit of bad news when it was announced that Angel would not be renewed for a sixth season. Currently, the debate over whether it was mistake to cancel Angel is still raging. Was it a mistake? Well, yes and no!
Over its five season fun, Angel had some high points and some low points as any television show does, but it never really lived up to the phenomenon of Buffy. However, enough fans tuned in and Angel became a solid ratings winner and was always cleverly scripted and well acted. It probably could have continued for a few more years and emerged out of the shadow of its predecessor, but unfortunately, Angel only aired for one season without Buffy on the air and while there were some wonderful episodes, the most interesting of them were produced after the cancellation announcement. The last couple demonstrate major potential for where the show could have gone, but alas, it was already axed and although there is continual talk about Buffy/Angel movies, I don’t think any fans are holding their breath. Thank God for DVD!
Season Four ended with Angel taking over the evil law firm Wolfram and Hart. The firm was a constant adversary throughout the second and third seasons, but as season five begins, Angel (David Boreanaz) is CEO, Lorne (Andy Hallet) is the entertainment co-ordinator, Fred (Amy Acker) is in charge of the science department and Wesley holds guard over the extensive mystical library. Every character has found there own little home within the inauspicious firm, except for Gunn, who takes a little while to determine his role in the new environment. Surely there are going to be problems between the new CEO and the elusive ‘senior partners'. Absolutely!
The fifth season of Angel has the same problem Buffy did during its sixth season; the lack of a ‘big bad’ that was the overwhelming enemy for the season. The senior partners are an ever present threat, but never an interesting one. Without an overall plot arc however, Angel actually becomes a stronger show with many different avenues to explore.
Spike arrives at Wolfram & Hart after saving the world in the finale of Buffy. The re-teaming of Angel and Spike is what makes the final season of Angel work. The two vampires continually bicker over everything and nothing and their rilvary reaches boiling point when Spike appears to not only have stolen Buffy away but also stolen Angel's destiny. The Shanshu prophecy, which has been referenced in almost every season of Angel refers to a “vampire with a soul” averting THE apocalypse. One prophecy, two vampires with souls, both in love with the slayer, this final season of Angel is endlessly fun and entertaining, but it really lacks the punch that a final season should have and the final moments of the last episode are nothing less than disappointing.
Angel season five is presented in anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen and it’s a great transfer, but it could be better. Images are sharp and clear and colours are excellent for most episodes. There is minimal grain that's only visible if you are actively looking for it and there are only occasional moments of aliasing and minimal film artefacts evident. Discs are RSDL and the layer changes occur between episodes. The major problem with the video of Angel is the incredibly dark original print. Obviously, a show with a central character who is a vampire is not going to be all bright lights, but the darkness of the video is a major on this release. The overall image is damaged by the darkness and in comparing past DVD releases of Angel (which are all quite dark) season five is the darkest and the most problematic video transfer of all the releases.
The audio is much more impressive than the video with Dolby Digital 2.0 surround that offers 5.1 sound quality. This is one of the best audio tracks I have heard on any TV show release with no hiss or distortion and no audio sync issues. The strength of bass and directional effects could rival any 5.1 mix. Dialogue is clear and audible and surround is gloriously utilised with the subwoofer kicking in quite frequently for fight sequences.
Angel season five has a nice collection of seven commentaries and seven featurettes, but overall the extras content is underwhelming for the final box set release of the show.
Seven audio commentaries on seven different episodes with a variety of speakers sounds like a generous extra in print, but the quality of these commentaries diminishes their value. The best commentaries are the solo commentary by Joss Whedon on Conviction and the commentary on Sole Purpose by David Boreanaz (who also directed the episode), writer Brent Fletcher and actor Christian Kane.
The remainder of the commentaries are mediocre with long silences and tiresome comments. A cast commentary on the comical episode Smile Time would have been a wiser choice than the bleak episodes that have been selected for these commentaries.
Conviction: Joss Whedon
Destiny: director Skip Schoolnik and writers David Fury, Steven S.DeKnight and Juliet Landau.
Soul Purpose : actor/director David Boreanaz, writer Brent Fletcher and actor Christian Kane.
Your’e Welcome : writer/director David Fury and actors Christian Kane and Sarah Thompson.
A Hole in the world: Joss Whedon, Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof
Underneath: director Skip Schoolnik, writers Elizabeth Craft, Sarah Fain and Adam Baldwin.
Not Fade Away: director Jeffrey Bell.
Angel 100 is a short look at the 100th episode celebrations including interviews with the cast and crew discussing the appeal and success of the series.
Hey Kids! It’s Smile Time is a brief look at one of the best and most ambitious episodes of the season. The cast, crew, puppets and puppeteers all discuss the unique nature of the episode.
Angel: Choreography of a Stunt is a detailed look at a stunt involving Angel being throw through several windows and down onto the street. Angel stunt double Mike Massa and David Boreanaz are interviewed and the behind the scenes footage shows the time and energy that goes into an seemingly simply stunt.
Angel: The Final Season examines the evolution of the series and in particular the fifth season. In this half hour retrospective all the cast reflect on their time on the series and each character’s arc is discussed in detail. While this featurette is the longest on the discs, there isn't much to relish here. Despite some heartfelt musings from Whedon, the running time is padded out by endless clips from episodes and only short reflections from the cast.
To Live and Die in L.A: The Best of Angel delves into the favourite episodes of creator Joss Whedon. Whedon reflects on particular episodes from each season that are important and significant for him.
Halos and Horns: Recurring Villainy explores the female villains Drusilla, Darla and Lila. The actresses who bring these evildoers to life discuss the popularity of their characters and their experiences on the show
Angel Unbound: The Gag Reels is simply David Boreanaz clowning around on the set. A few of the other actors have their awkward moments, flubbing lines and laughing, but this gag reel really only shows the antics of Boreanaz, which aren't funny.
All good things must come to an end and with the final season DVD release of Angel, the buffyverse is television history.
The audio and video quality for this release are fine and although the extras are disappointing, avid fans will no doubt want to add this final chapter of Angel to their collection.