Angel: Season Three

While the news of Angel's cancellation after its current season has been met with some collective "mehs" from those who've found season five preoccupied with too many one-off episodes and some less intricate writing, the cult of Angel is still loyal and devastated by the news, and season three demonstrates why. After finding its footing with its establishing first season (where Buffy's vampire lover with a soul leaves Sunnydale for L.A.) and building on its promise and rounding out its ensemble cast during a strong season two, season three's twists, turns and tragedies are as good as, if not better than, Buffy's best seasons. In the beginning of the season overview, writer/director/producer Tim Minear says, "What's cool about season three is that it began with a lot of promise for all the characters and then we just stepped on everybody's heart and completely broke them." And he's not understating. Season three's main story arc amongst its one-offs and sub-plots features the re-emergence of a pregnant Darla (the vampire that sired Angel who returned from the dead in season two), the introduction of Holtz the vampire hunter from Angel's past and the birth, loss, return and revenge of Angel's son, Conner. There are also some of the series' most well-known one-offs, including "Billy," which features a demon that can bring out misogyny in any male he touches, one of the series' most loved and hated episodes. It's the constant threat of happiness inevitably ruined by tragedy (Angel impossibly has a son, loses son, son returns, son drops Angel in the ocean) that makes season three so excellent, maintaining a darkness its sire Buffy never achieved while still juggling the humour, action, fantasy and razor-sharp writing both shows are known for. The extras seem a little more substantial this time around, although they are utterly devoid of Joss, save for a commentary track on "Waiting In The Wings" and its deleted scene. The aforementioned overview, behind the scenes and Darla featurettes are the meatier (if kind of redundant) pieces among its sparse commentaries, screen tests (Amy Acker/Fred's is the best) and a still gallery. However, as good as season three is, its double cliff-hanger ending makes the wait for four excruciating. (Fox)