Angel Season Five

Sometimes it's best to go out the champ, retire while on top, leaving an indelible legacy in your wake. But, far too often, be it with sports "heroes," TV series or the continual resurrection and homogony of past ideas in film (i.e., sequels), the urge to overstay is one that cannot be resisted. And, in this case of Angel, what should have been its best, most compelling season turned into one of its most frustrating, matched only by the "finding its footing" discrepancies of its debut. As season four ended, Angel (Buffy's vampire with a soul ex) and gang (Wes, Gunn, Fred, Lorne and a Spike to be added later) were handed the keys to their arch nemesis' (Wolfram and Hart) multi-million dollar L.A. law firm and all its vast resources as their "reward" for saving the world from Jasmine (an evil god-like creature who filled everyone with love but filled her belly with everyone). And season five starts off flush with the promise and storytelling opportunities such a scenario offers, with Angel and crew struggling to acclimate to, and swim with, the sharks they fought so hard and long against. Metaphorically, if season one to four were about (youthful) rebellion, season five is about growing up and "buying in" without "selling out" your ideals; the challenge of growing up. However, the creative team was given an edict by the higher-ups at WB for season five to have way more accessible one-off episodes and less over-arching plots that dangle and tease but don't pay off until way down the road, in a misguided effort to increase its appeal (a problem very briefly addressed in one of the featurettes). Arguably, this is the biggest quandary of season five, as the intricate, slowly spooled plot breadcrumbs that eventually rewarded were one of Angel's (and Buffy's) greatest and most intriguing attributes. Everything was considered, nothing was ignored and the easy out was always eschewed, at least until each show's final season. However, we do get some excellent one-offs in the trade: "Smile Time" (where the gang battle an evil puppet show, with Angel getting turned into an incredibly cute muppet), "The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco" (a nod to Mexican wrestling) and "Why We Fight" (a WWII flashback submarine tale). But with the one-off focus also comes disappearing plot threads (the cyborgs/nameless forces that attack in "Linage" but are never heard from again), great ideas that aren't executed properly (Lindsey's return) and a lacklustre, disappointing, inconclusive ending. However, Angel at its shakiest is still some of the best, most engaging sci-fi/fantasy TV around, and season five is still good, balancing the great with the lacklustre, but doesn't end with the bang the series deserved. Plus: selected commentary, featurettes. (Fox)