Over the last few years we have looked at a number of episodes from the groundbreaking series Buffy the Vampire Slayer with the most recent being Once More with Feeling. Now it is time to look at an episode from the spin-off series, Angel. Tonight on The Witching Hour we look at the very first episode of that brooding show, City of Angels. Expect some spoilers. Just a side note… I have seen this episode referred to as City of… and City of Angels. I am using the latter title as that is how it appears in my Vudu library. Just be aware there is some disagreement on the episode’s actual title.
Let’s begin with a quick recap of the events from the end of Buffy’s third season. Rogue slayer Faith had switched sides and now works for the Mayor who was preparing to take on the form of a true demon after undergoing The Ascension. At the same time, Angel struggles with his feelings for Buffy. The two may be soulmates but Angel comes to realize that being with Buffy would deprive her of the life she deserves. He pledges to leave Sunnydale after the threat of the Mayor is vanquished which he does at the end of the third season finale.
So where does a vampire like Angel go? Why, to Los Angeles, of course. He is not the only regular cast member to come to the big city. Cordelia decided to pursue her dreams of becoming an actress though it seems she is struggling to make it big.
City of Angels begins with – as you might expect – Angel. He is sitting in a bar shadowing a group of vampires who are about to feed on a pair of unsuspecting ladies. After a very nicely choreographed fight scene Angel stalks off into an alley so we can see the opening credits.
Angel is joined by a new character called Quinn. He is a demon who is here to guide Angel on his quest to help those in need. Doyle gets psychic visions which provide Angel a clue as to who the next person he should help might be. This is how Angel learns about a young woman named Tina who he finds at the restaurant she works at. She is on her way to a party hosted by a Hollywood big shot named Russell Winters and it is at this shindig where Angel bumps into Cordelia.
Cutting to the chase, it seems that Russell Winters is actually a vampire which Angel learns after Tina is bitten. It also appears that Cordelia has captured Russell’s eye. As you might have predicted, Cordelia is protected in this episode by plot armor as Angel saves her from being bitten. The best part of the episode takes place at the end when Angel confronts Winters in his high rise office. It is here we are introduced to a young lawyer from a firm known as Wolfram & Hart right before Angel sends Winters flying through a plate glass window into the sun. The episode ends with Angel attempting to call Buffy but hanging up (a moment that is reflected on Buffy’s show as well). Cordelia, Doyle and Angel team up to form Angel Investigations as a force for good in Los Angeles.
As a standalone episode, this one is pretty good. I like how it shows the struggles of living in Los Angeles – especially for young people pursuing stardom. Cordelia cannot even afford to buy food and lives off little morsels she manages to filch from parties. Tina has been exploited by those in power and her spirit is nearly crushed.
My only issue with this episode is that is comes across mainly as another vampire episode and we have seen plenty of those on Buffy. Angel is a series largely about the battle for his very soul and that does not really come across from the pilot episode. With that said, there are some great stories within the first two seasons of Angel as well as the final fifth season. The third and fourth seasons are very divisive but we will have to get into those later.