Angel: Season Two Review
If ever there was evidence that a DVD distributor actually listens to it's customers then this is it - while the first season of Angel to be released on DVD was criticised for not being made available in widescreen, Fox have taken everything fans said on board and have released the second series of the Buffy spin-off in it's full widescreen glory.
The second series of Angel kicks off pretty much where the first ended. But this time we have a bit more pace and there are some much darker undertones running through most of the series, while at the same time once again Joss Whedon and co have managed to weave in plenty of humour. This series is designed to run alongside season five of Buffy The Vampire Slayer (we'll tactfully forget that the DVD releases of that series are only up to season three at the moment) and features yet more of the crossovers that littered the first season - although the series them selves are far less intertwined. We also see the return of two familiar faces from the Buffy-verse - Drusilla (Juliette Landau) and Darla (Julie Benz).
Once again, the evil law firm Wolfram and Hart provide most of the evil doing and with the help of Darla and Drusilla their aim is to bring Angel across to their side. Things don't quite go to plan and there are some truly shocking twists half way through the season. Things do brighten up towards the end and the largely light hearted three-part season finale injects a bit of much needed fun into the series at the same time as introducing a new regular character.
High-points of the second season outweigh the low by a large margin. The whole Darla/Drusilla sub-plot provides plenty of tension and drama, and episodes that particularly stand out include Darla that fills in some of the blanks in Angel, Darla and Drusilla's past and Reprise which finally gives us a glimpse of one of Wolfram and Hart's senior partners. There really aren't any particularly weak episodes - although some would argue that the final trilogy of Over the Rainbow, Through the Looking Glass and There's no place like Plrtz Glrb are a little out of place. I'm inclined to disagree and these three are actually three of my favourite episodes so far...
All in all though, season two is a step up from the first season. There's a strong, long-running plot, excellent writing and plenty of humour (some dark, and some not-so). I'd go as far as to say that this second season of Angel is equally as good as the best Buffy had to offer in it's prime - maybe even a little bit better.
Fox have at last done us proud. This is by far and away the best presentation I've seen for a TV series so far. The anamorphic widescreen transfer blows away the picture on the season one disc and is almost film-like in terms of quality.
There are a few minor problems. There does appear to be a little grain in the first couple of episodes and there is some softness throughout - probably as a result of the TV origins. But, as a whole I'd say that the picture here sets a new benchmark for the presentation of television series on DVD.
Not quite as impressed with the sound. It's as good as you will have heard from the original TV broadcasts, but when compared to releases such as the Farscape discs or Stargate SG-1 which both have Dolby Digital 5.1 sound this is a little lacking. The 2 channel sound mix is fairly vibrant, but lacks the depth associated with 5.1 channel surround. The front soundstage is nice and wide and there is certainly adequate use of the surround speakers, but it would have been nice to see Fox give the series a bit more attention in this respect.
Good news on the extras front! Fox have put together an excellent selection to choose from. There are commentaries, scripts and a number of featurettes to get your teeth into. I'll take a look at them here on a disc-by-disc basis...
Commentary for "Are you now, or have you ever been" by Tim Minnear
Tim is the writer for the episode and as such has a lot to say about his thoughts and what he wanted to achieve. It's an excellent commentary with plenty to keep you interested throughout and Minnear seems very keen on talking about his work.
Not a lot to say on this one really! This is the full script for the episode 'Darla'. It's presented on a series of static screens that can be flicked through with the remote control. It's hard to see anyone actually making it all the way through to the end though!
"Making up the Monsters" featurette
Runs for around five minutes and focuses on the make-up for the various monsters of the series. The highlights are interviews with Charisma Carpenter (Cordelia) talking about her new hair-do for the series, Andy Hallet (The Host) getting his green makeup and prosthetics applied and David Boreanaz (Angel) talking about his views on the make-up. Worth a watch
"Inside the Agency" featurette
This is a behind-the-scenes look at the various sets used by the series - in particular we get a good look at the new hotel headquarters of Angel Investigations and also Cordelia's haunted flat. Running for around fifteen minutes, there's plenty of interest here.
A selection of mostly publicity shots - many of which most fans will have seen plenty of times before.
13 blueprints focussing on the Angel Investigations hotel and Cordelia's flat. To be honest, it's very difficult to make out much of what's on display though so I question their real value. Still I can't complain that they're included.
My comments above on the Darla script apply here too!
Commentary for "Over the Rainbow" by Fred Keller
Not nearly as good as Tim Minnear's commentary on disc one. Keller is the director of the episode in question and instead of focussing on the episode goes more generally into make-up and various other aspects that apply more to the series as a whole. There are a few episode specific bits and bobs though. As far as commentaries go this one's a little dry and there are a few jarring pauses.
A perfunctory look at various stunts. There's not a lot here that you won't have seen on TV on a Sunday afternoon - the only distinguishing factor being that it's Angel-focussed. Still there's not really a lot here to get excited about.
Season Two overview
Don't watch this before watching the series - there are a few spoilers! What we do have is plenty of interviews with the cast and crew about the series as a whole. This one runs for 15 minutes and is certainly worth a watch.
Pretty much bog-standard as far as biographies go. Just a selection of text-based pages.
Season One DVD trailer
A trailer for the first series. No more, no less!
The second series of Angel takes the series off in an interesting direction. The makers are not scared to take risks and pull a number of surprises out of the bag when you least expect it. The DVD package is excellent - for the first time there's pretty much nothing to complain about. We've got the widescreen we wanted and the selection of extras is pretty good.
Last updated: 19/04/2018 17:56:52