The fifth season of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer spin-off, Angel , is possibly the best of the series. Some fans might hate the development of Angel becoming head of Wolfram and Hart, but I think it brings the Machiavellian questions of morality, that were always present in Whedon’s work, to the foreground.
These five episodes represent some of that type of “greater good” decision making, and are the best of the season, if not the entire series.
5. Underneath- This episode gives us yet another glimpse into the darker side of what Wolfram and Hart is capable of. The theme of punishment, and eventually self-punishment, is interestingly rendered in the suburban hell that Lindsay has been banished to by the senior partners. It’s weird and gross and some of the most haunting stuff of the series.
4. Harm’s Way- Harmony was always kind of boring. She jumped in and helped Cordelia insult people, and then eventually she insulted Cordelia. She was always the popular mean girl stereotype. Then we are introduced to vampire Harmony in season four of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and it is surprising how funny Mercedes McNabb is in the role. By the time we get to the fifth season of Angel, Harmony has grown a whole lot as a character, and it is endearing and fabulous, and represents some of the more complex morals at work in Angel. She’s evil, but not quite. “Harm’s Way” may have a silly conclusion, but getting there is so fun.
3. Lineage- Speaking of characters who have grown, the Wesley Wyndham-Price who now broods before you in “Lineage” is so far removed from the bumbling Watcher in season three of Buffy that it is almost unbelievable to contemplate. This episode is one of those “How did we get here?” moments, and it highlights what an incredible actor Alexis Denisof is that he made the transition from fumbling fool to resident badass so seamless and believable. “Lineage” has some weak points, but as a character study, it is great, and it gives us more insight about the relationship between Wesley and his father that was only alluded to before.
2. Not Fade Away- This series finale is so great. It works on a different level than Buffy’s, and really brings the morality questions to light (Lorne’s exit in particular). “Not Fade Away” is so good because it represents the fact that the fight against evil, especially when some of the evil is our own inner demons, is never over. The last second will make you gasp.
1. A Hole in the Earth- Only one episode could be better than the perfect series finale, and that is “A Hole in the Earth.” But I was also tempted to put this episode into the worst column. What transpires in this episode will never be fully ok with me. But the reason that it is partially ok is because of how well it is done. When Spike looks down and says the title of the episode, it is true Joss Whedon style. Maybe a little obvious or heavy-handed, but so lovingly done that you don’t care. The acting in this episode is incredible. Everybody tops themselves. But “A Hole in the Earth” is so heartbreaking it’s almost not worth watching. Almost.