I never had much of a thing for the series, just as I never had one for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Sure, the second and third season of Buffy was fun, but the rest was pretty average--and at times downright shit--while the much insisted literacy intelligence that was supposedly in the whole thing was, simply, not there for me. I spend my days in a world where people assign new meanings and interpretations to works of fiction like there's nothing better to do with your time, and my personal theory on the subject, is that they are right when they say that the discourse around a piece of work need not actually be something that the author wrote. New meanings, new times, new social standings... whatever, basically. Just make it interesting. So it's not like I'm against it, but with Buffy, there was just an empty hole of meaning outside a few episodes. That, of course, doesn't make something bad, and doesn't stop it from being good, but it's just my way of saying, yeah, yeah, whatever, when it came to that side of the world around it.
Angel was, from the chunks I saw, uselessly limping along for the first three seasons.
I never made it to the end of season one, caught only the second half of season two, and the middle and end of season three. It depended on the night, how I was sleeping, and in the case of season one, a girlfriend.
And then season four began.
Season four was, essentially, a twenty something hour long film about an apocalypse, held together, as far as I was concerned, by Alexis Denisof and his dark, brooding, my-friends-slit-my-throat-and-now-I've-a-s
Season five, having finished here in Australia last week, was a stronger beast, the series finally finding its own legs to support a season with mostly self contained episodes. It finally tossed out Charisma Carpenter's shallow by wholesome Cordelia, and bought in a replacement shallow character (for there must, always, be a shallow, beautiful woman in Whedon's Buffy franchise) in the form of Mercedes McNab as the shallow vampire Harmony, and made her the title characters secretary, as the cast took over the evil law firm, giving the show an entire new look.
Once there, the first thing they did was bring in James Marsters' Spike, back from the dead (the only character worth breathing life into from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I thought worked well) to give Boreanaz's Angel someone to have some of that character conflict stuff with, and to use sharp, witty dialogue that the two appeared to be enjoying from day one. They then, finally, gave J. August Richards something to do with his character by making him want something (in this case, to be more than simple muscle), and would, in the middle of the season, show that Amy Acker could act, and produce one of the best characters for the show, I think. Through it all, Denisof's Wes went from brooding, to well adjusted, to stabbing his friends and sitting on the edge of insanity, but providing, still, I believe, the fabric that held the show together.
There were two big faults in the season as a whole: the first was bringing in the fully irritating presence of Andrew for a pair of episodes. Whatever you think, I just can't stand him, and he was out of place in the darker Angel series. The second, more regrettable error, was the criminal misuse of Andy Hallett's Lorne for the majority of the season.
There were other issues: a few episodes were soggy and unnecessary, and, naturally, they got cancelled, which forced an ending that, even though they put one nicely there, did feel a bit rushed.
Despite this, it was cool, and the reason is with the end:
Angel ended like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, with the characters stepping out from an alley and into an ocean of foes that they could not, will not, should not, survive against. They're dead. They know it, and yet, with that full realisation, Angel (Boreanaz) says the series' final lines, "I don't know about you, but I've come to kill the dragon."
That's just cool.
I hear, vaguely, that there might be tv movies, something extra, but I hope not. Really. I liked the last two seasons--I like the characters, the actors, the whole thing about the final season, but this is an ending, in the way that most endings are not. I'll be entirely happy should it stay that way.