On Angel

A World Without Love

The Failure of Family in Angel

By Jean Lorrah

As the television series Angel ended its fifth and final season, the only character left from the opening episode of the first season was the title character, Angel. Compare that to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the show which spun off Angel: Buffy, Giles, Xander and Willow were present in the first episode of the first season and in the last episode of the seventh season. Is the attrition rate in Angel mere coincidence, caused by the vagaries of the entertainment industry, or is it the byproduct of a theme of the show–a theme that clearly differentiates this series from its parent?

In my essay, “Love Saves the World: the Nontraditional Family in Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” published in Seven Seasons of Buffy, I argued that in the original series a major theme is the self-made family Buffy creates, and that it is the love between the members of that nontraditional family that makes it possible for them to triumph repeatedly over evil–even when evil resides within one of their own.

When Angel first began in 1999, it appeared in the opening episodes that Angel would build a similar family in Los Angeles. After five seasons, however, we see that not only did it not happen, but that it was never intended to happen. Not only can Angel not create a stable nontraditional family–he always has a team of helpers, but they change over time–but when he is given a real, blood-related family (through the machinations of evil law firm Wolfram & Hart,  …

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