Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel
By Beth Hannan Rimmels
Any time the creator of a successful TV series diverts his attention to work on a new project, theres a risk the original program will suffer. While Buffy the Vampire Slayer is not completely in the clear, both the start of its fourth season and Angels debut look very promising.
Buffy was potentially at risk even without the spin-off series taking creator Joss Whedons time. Unlike the characters on many shows, the protagonists of Buffy grow and change, and not always for the better (such as Faith). Whedon was smart to get them out of high school and onto college, but such transitions can disrupt the delicate balance of a TV series. Here, it looks to have only made things better.
At the start of the season, Giles is unemployed, having been fired from both his position as high school librarian and his earlier dismissal as a Watcher. By the end of last season, Buffy severed all ties with The Council, declaring her independence from their rules, but that also means she is without their resources. Buffy, Willow and Oz are living on the University of California at Sunnydale campus, but Buffy isnt adapting as well to collegiate life as the other two. Whedon seems to clearly remember the awkwardness of freshmen year and how hard it is to mentally shift from know-it-all high school senior to clueless college freshmen, as well as starting all over again with new teachers, roommates, etc. Xanders trying to find himself, too, while Buffys mom Joyce seems to be coping a bit too well without her slayer daughter underfoot.
On Angel, the title character is also going through major transitions. When Buffy ended last season, Angel (David Boreanaz) had decided to leave Sunnydale because staying and continuing a dead-end relationship with Buffy wasn't fair. He ends up in Los Angeles, where he's been living for the past few months. The setup for the new series is handled quickly and very well twice. In a pre-credit sequence, a drunken Angel saves two girls from vampires who picked them up in a bar, but hes forced to flee their gratitude when the blood from one of the girls injuries becomes too tempting.
Shortly thereafter, Doyle (Glenn Quinn) arrives. Neither vampire nor human (well, he claims to be part human), Doyles been sent by "powers that be" as mysterious as his own ancestry. Why? To help Angel help others. Evidently, Angels being doing it wrong for the past few months. To avoid potentially emotionally painful contact with humans, hes been doing a vampiric Batman thing saving people and disappearing into the shadows. Doyle warns him that those actions will lead him to giving into his vampire nature. Only regular, significant contact with humans can maintain his humanity, painful though it may be. Doyle also gets visions in the form of migraine headaches with a message. The visions will guide Angel to the people who need help.
Which runs him directly into the path of the shadowy powers that be in Los Angeles. The vampires here seem to not only be organized, but more interested in financial and material power than opening gates to hell (though that is also a possibility for the future). Whedon planted the seeds for recurring villains on both the individual and group level, the better to spice up the story.
In the meantime, Angel runs into Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter), who has moved to LA to pursue an acting career since she cant afford college. Facing life for the first time without the advantages of money or popularity (and beautiful girls are a dime a dozen in LA), Cordys waking up to reality in her own shallow way. Soon, Doyle talks Angel into hiring her to help out, figuring that someone so incredibly human and annoying can only help keep Angel tethered to his emotions and morality.
How long Whedon, who wrote and directed many episodes of Buffy, can divide himself between both shows without either suffering or his collapsing remains to be seen, but the first part of season seems to be in great shape. Both vampires and other networks should start fearing Tuesday night.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer airs 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT on WB TV. Angel airs 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT on WB TV. Check local listings for the affiliate in your area.
Review © 1999 Beth Hannan Rimmels. Buffy the Vampire Slayer © 1997-2000 The WB Television Network. Angel © 1999-2000 The WB Television Network. Accompanying photographs © 1999 The WB; photo credit: Frank Ockenfels.