After writing the list of the best Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes it’s time to turn to writing the list of my favorite best Angel episodes. For those not versed in the Buffyverse, Angel was the spin-off show of Buffy the Vampire Slayer that saw Buffy’s forbidden love, the ensouled vampire ‘Angel’ heading off to Los Angeles to fight evil and ultimately seek his redemption. He is soon joined by Cordelia and Wesley, also from Buffy. Together they start Angel Investigations, a Supernatural detective agency that claims to ‘Help the Helpless’.
It’s worth noting that Angel is created from a darker and more adult stock than its parent show, Buffy. The lines between good and evil are much more blurred, demons aren’t always the bad guys.
So which are my favourite episodes?
The Best Angel Episodes are..
7.) Why we Fight (Series 5)
In this series 5 episode we see a little more of Angel and Spike’s past. During World War II Angel is recruited by the ‘Demon Research Initiative’ (an earlier form of ‘The Initiative’ to which Riley Finn belonged to in Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Knowing what Angel is and the skills that he has, he is asked to recover a German U-Boat that is carrying three vampires, one of which is called Spike.
Why do I like it? Well it’s a flashback episode for a start. One of my favourite Buffy the Vampire Slayer books called Pretty Maids all in a Row’ tells the story of Spike and Drusilla during World War II and this episode taps straight into that. Plus there’s the added mythical connection between the Nazi’s and the supernatural which is good for storytelling. They’ve even thrown a Nosferatu looking vampire in there for good measure.
We also get to another example of pre-Whistler Angel as he tries to the good thing without Spike or any of the other Vampires realising he now plays for the good guys. At the end of the episode, Angel has to sire the only engineer to save his life so that he can save the rest of the crew. Though, I suspect that it is this act that causes him to be a little more despondent in the ‘Are you now, or have you ever been’ episode in series two.
I also liked the comical touch of 1940’s Angel saying “I’m not getting trapped at the bottom of the sea,” when he was dropped into the Pacific Ocean in a large iron box by his own son Connor at the end of Season 3. Spike also said “I’m not getting experimented on by his government.” Even though we know he had a chip put in his head by ‘The Initiative’ in Season 4 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
6.) Are you now, or have you ever been (Series 2)
In this flashback episode Angel is lying low in a 1950’s hotel called the Hyperion. The Hyperion hotels inhabitants are being feasted on by a Thesulac demon; a demon that feeds on people’s insecurities. As the demon feeds on the guests of the Hotel, they all start to become deeply suspicious and paranoid.
The highlight of this episode is watching how the guests are eaten away by their own dark thoughts. When a guest commits suicide the manager and bellhop hide the body in the meat locker for fear of being shut down. This makes the guests suspicious of murder, they then argue. Even the young woman on the run for stealing, who Angel befriends and helps, gets so scared that she accuses Angel of murder which causes the lynch mob that tries (and obviously fails) to hang him.
The best bit though, if I am going to be brutally honest with myself is that in 1950 Angel was so angry and hurt by what the residents of the hotel had tried to do to him, that he just walks away. Even knowing that the Thesulac Demon would eat and ultimately kill everyone left in the hotel, Angel just walked away. Cooool.
5.) Rm w/a Vu (Series 1)
‘Rm w/ a Vu’ for those of you not used to looking at apartment ads means ‘Room with a View’ and in this episode Cordelia’s new and ’perfect’ apartment is haunted by an angry and violent poltergeist.
Why is this in my top 7? Because the poltergeist is just so damn evil. Not ‘Buffy Hush’ evil but still pretty damn bad. The poltergeist is that of the original owner of the house. An overbearing mother who bricked her living son up into the walls of the apartment to stop him seeing the girl he loved. The mother then dropped down dead of a heartache shortly afterwards. Incidentally, the image of the son being bricked up is in the shows credits.
The ghost is only defeated when Cordelia realises her inner-bitch and opens up a big batch of Cordy-style bitchiness, something we’ll only really see once more in ‘Spin the Bottle’. The son remains in the apartment as her kind-hearted etherial housemate known as Phantom Dennis, who acts as both friend and protector of Cordelia.
4.) Birthday (Series 3)
As Cordelia’s ever increasingly painful and debilitating visions put her in a coma she is told by the demon Skip that she should never have been given the visions, and gives her a choice. She can either stay as she is and die in a week, or go back in time and alter her life so that she never met up with Angel in Los Angeles.
This is Angels ‘What-If’ episode. In Cordelia’s new life she is a famous actress, with her own show and glamorous apartment. Angel investigations is not faring so well, Wesley has lost an arm and Angel is a gibbering wreck in the Hyperion hotel, after he was driven mad when Doyle’s vision gift passed to him.
It also shows that even if Cordelia had never met Angel in LA, she would still have wanted to help people. With or without Angel’s help, the bitchy Cordelia would have been replaced with the kind and giving one no matter what.
3.) Spin the bottle (Series 4)
If ‘Tabula Rasa’ was in the Top 7 Buffy Episodes list, then by the same reasoning ‘Spin the Bottle’ should definitely be in the Top 7 Angel episodes list mainly because the plot is practically the same.
Spin the Bottle – Lorne casts a spell to help restore Cordelia’s Memory, but the spell backfires and they all end up thinking they’re teenagers again, with limited knowledge of the supernatural.
Tabula Rasa – Willow casts a spell to make everyone forget an argument, but the spell backfires and they all end up forgetting who they are with no knowledge of the supernatural.
As well as the odd comedy moment’s such as Wesley’s prat-fall or poor Lorne who keeps getting knocked out for various reasons, this show is one of my favourites because it helps to remind us of just how far certain characters have come in the way of personal growth. We are reintroduced to the bitchy and self-important Cordelia, and bumbling incompetent Wesley. With both of those characters having gone through so much change, their original selves are almost unrecognisable.
Unfortunately, you do have to deal with Angel’s less than perfect Irish accent in this episode, but as he also beats the crap out of Connor too, I’m willing to allow it.
2.) I’ve got you under my skin (Series 1)
In this episode from series one, Angel Investigations looks into one of Cordelia’s vision that indicates an Ethros demon has taken possession of a boy.
This episode hit’s number 2 in my list because it has the best plot-twist of any Angel episode. The twist being that the sociopath child is a bigger threat to the family than the mass murdering demon that inhabited him. In short, the Ethros demon that Angel is trying to exercise was trapped inside the body of the boy, and couldn’t escape because the child had no soul. The demon had tried to escape from the child several times, by sleep-walking him into dangerous situations, or writing ‘Save me’ messages. These signs had been interpreted as being from the soul of the child.
A lovely twisty ending that once again separates Angel from its parent show ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ by blurring the lines between what we know is good and what we see as evil.
1.) Smile Time (Series 5)
Yes, Smile Time, the episode of Angel that feels as if Jim Henson wrote it one lonely evening when he was high on Methamphetamine and suspicious brownies. Demon puppets are sucking the life out of children through their television sets, while they watch a program called ‘Smile Time’. As Angel investigates the strange goings on, he is turned into a puppet version of himself.
Whether it’s Spike and Puppet-angel’s fight in which Spike can’t stop laughing at him, Puppet-angel’s encounter with a rather angry werewolf or Angel’s comments on his situation “I’m made of felt, and my nose comes off” it’s comedy gold.
As an interesting fact, Joss’s Dad actually wrote for The Muppets, and several puppeteers from The Jim Henson Company helped with all the puppety stuff.
It feels as if Joss Whedon just woke up one day and thought ‘you know what, let’s do something a bit different. Let’s do something with puppets.’ It works, and it’s probably why this episode is near universally recognised as the best Angel episode of all time. If it isn’t, it damn well should be.