You are reading: 15 Reasons Angel Was Better Than Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Angel was a vampire cursed with a soul (and a conscience) who first appeared in
“Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” When he was on that show, he tended to be relegated to the brooding boyfriend role most of the time. However, after Season 3 of “Buffy,” he left to spin off onto his own show set in Los Angeles, where the character finally had room to develop on his own, and ultimately became far more dynamic than he ever was on “Buffy,” and perhaps even more interesting than Buffy ever became on her own show.
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Both shows have their strengths and weaknesses, but overall, “Angel” really came into its own and ultimately became a better show than its predecessor for a number of reasons. Here are the top 15 reasons that “Angel” is a better show than “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
WARNING: Spoilers for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” below.
“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” was fairly straightforward in its portrayal of good and evil. Most vampires, demons and monsters were inherently evil, and most humans were inherently good. The only monsters who weren’t evil were Angel, who was cursed with a soul, and Anya, a demon who was cursed to be mortal and forced to live among the humans, but they both started off as evil before special circumstances forced them to change. On “Angel,” one of the first characters we’re introduced to, Doyle, a demon who uses his visions to help people in need. Throughout the series, we meet dozens of demons just trying to exist in the world.
The ongoing big bad of “Angel,” the law firm Wolfram and Hart, is full of normal human beings who are more truly evil than most of the demons they encounter on either show. Even the main characters themselves don’t always do the right thing, and the right thing isn’t always black and white. The whole team ends up working for the evil “Wolfram and Hart” in Season 5, constantly on the line of trying to prevent the firm from doing evil or letting the evil corrupt them.
Buffy Summers was a high school girl, chosen to be the Slayer who would stand against the forces of darkness. In the first season, she’s only 16, so in addition to her duties as The Slayer, she tries to navigate through high school, dating, family and friendship. It’s not an uninteresting premise, but the concept of trying to survive high school is one familiar to all of us, and for some, not a time that we care to remember.
Angel was born in Ireland in 1727 and was turned into one of the most vicious vampires of all time. After 150 years, he was cursed with a soul by a clan of gypsies, and with that came the crushing guilt of every evil thing he had done as a vampire. His life became a never-ending quest for atonement for his evils under a crushing weight of self-hatred and guilt. He strives to help those in need because he has the blood of thousands of innocent lives on his hands. The concept of living as a broken adult who hates who they used to be is something many can relate to, and creates an infinitely more complex and interesting character.
Wesley Wyndam-Price began on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” as the teacher’s pet tattletale to the Watcher’s Council, who didn’t approve of how Giles was handling Buffy’s training. He was an annoying character whose only purpose was to be hated by the audience and as comic relief at how much of a loser he was, and in those goals, he succeeded. Just like Angel though, when he made the move to being a main character in the second season of Angel, everything changed, and he turned into a fan favorite.
When Wesley was fired from the Watchers Council after failing to control the Slayer, he went on his own to become a rogue demon hunter in Los Angeles. He joins up with Angel Investigations to help the hopeless and becomes a leader who does what he knows is right, regardless of the cost. Throughout the series, he’s the man who makes the hard decisions, even when he has to make them alone. He develops the most endearing love story of the series, and grows from a loser into a hero.
Even from the very beginning of the series, Angel’s similarities to Batman were many and obvious to the audience. In fact, without actually carrying the license of the “Batman” title, it might be one of the best Batman tv shows we’ve ever gotten. Angel roams the streets and rooftops at night, dressed all in black, with a number of homemade gadgets to help with his fight against evil, including spring-loaded wrist-mounted stakes and even a grappling hook.
He even has a black car that he’s very attached to throughout the series that the vampire, Spike, refers to as the “Angelmobile.” The most compelling similarity between the two though, is their personality. They’re both brooding, private loners, with tragedy in their past who have dedicated their lives to altruistically helping people in need and ultimately, making their city a better place. With Angel being the head of “Angel Investigations,” they’re even both detectives.
Both “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” have their share of tragic moments and arcs. Character deaths hit hard on both shows, but Angel deals with tragedy in a more adult and poignant way. Angel kills off major characters far more often, and each time, every character is given room to explore the impact it has on them. When Doyle dies in the first season, Cordelia spends the rest of the series dealing with emotional repercussions of that. Arguably the only death on “Buffy” that ever managed this was her mother, Joyce. Even when Tara dies, the only one it really seems to affect deeply for more than an episode is her girlfriend, Willow, and the audience.
The entire concept of “Angel” is a tragedy. A man suffering hundreds of years of guilt for the murder and cruelty he unleashed on the world, who is on an impossible quest for redemption and cursed with never being allowed to experience true happiness ever again, lest he unleash that evil and cruelty again. He has a heart full of compassion and love, yet he can’t allow himself to feel love or happiness.
“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” was a show built for comedy at its core. The concept is funny, the characters all say funny quippy things, even Buffy’s name is kind of funny, and it’s certainly a very funny show, but Angel’s humor is more subtle and better timed. On “Buffy,” nearly any time Xander or Oz is on screen, you can expect some funny sarcastic quips. It’s only when things are absolutely dire and tragic that no one is making jokes, and even then, Xander might have an offhand joke to make.
On Angel, the situation is almost always dark, so when a character says something funny, it hits you harder because you’re not expecting it. Instead of being “quippy,” comedy is often derived from the situation. In the first episode, Angel leaps into his car to chase after a bad guy in an extremely tense moment. His key doesn’t work and he looks over and realizes he’s in someone else’s car. In another episode, a girl asks him to dance, and he has a vision of what’s possibly the goofiest dance ever performed. The comedy works better because it’s juxtaposed with realism and tragedy.
Cordelia Chase started on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” as a ditzy, mean, high school Queen Bee, but like every character who came over to “Angel” full time, she became a three-dimensional, complex and interesting character. The former mean girl became a broken adult trying, and sometimes failing, to do the right thing any way that she could. She went on to become Angel’s main love interest in a slowly developing process throughout the series.
She also deals with a sense of guilt throughout the series for how she treated people throughout high school, even from the first season of “Angel.” In the fourth season, she goes into a coma after being possessed for nearly an entire season by an ancient demon, and in the Season 5 episode, “You’re Welcome,” returns to help Angel one more time before saying goodbye to Angel, and dying, making her the longest-running character in the Buffyverse to die, and one of the most heartbreaking.
One of the great flaws of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” throughout its run was its constant focus on every character’s romantic entanglements. Specifically, Buffy’s, which led to a never-ending stream of annoying one-note characters to serve as Buffy’s potential love interest. She even started having a self-loathing relationship with Spike that she kept from her friends, and when they found out, everybody was sad and judgemental. Things got a little bit “Twilighty.”
Angel had a few love stories throughout its run, but it was never a focus and never a priority for the writers. This led to better dramatic writing, and when they did occur, better relationship writing. The ongoing “will they, won’t they” relationship between Fred and Wesley is maybe the most compelling of either “Buffy” or “Angel,” and even though it got off to a rocky start (and end), Angel’s relationship with “Cordelia” was far more mature and realistic than his relationship with Buffy ever was.
Angel’s curse of having a soul came with an addendum. If he was to ever experience a moment of true happiness, his soul would be taken away, and he would become the evil, cruel Angelus once again. It happened once on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” and he killed dozens of innocent people, including the woman that Giles loved, in the cruelest and most heartbreaking way possible.
Throughout “Angel,” the risk of him experiencing a single moment of true happiness is always present, and in Season 4, Team Angel actually locks him up and has a shaman remove his soul to get information about an evil being that threatens to destroy the world. Of course, Angelus gets out and wreaks havoc upon the world in a six-episode arc. If the idea of having a main character who
go bad at any time is a risky move, then actually turning him into the villain for over 25% of a season is brilliant insanity.
While “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” had a different “Big Bad” for each season with a clean beginning and end. In “Angel,” there is sometimes a particular evil focus for each season, but the real “Big Bad,” the true evil behind everything in “Angel” is the demonic law firm, Wolfram and Hart. They make their first appearance in the very first episode of “Angel,” but at the time, their significance isn’t really even hinted at. They represent a wealthy vampire who murders women and then uses the law firm to get out of any trouble he finds himself in.
The inter-dimensional firm is run by an ancient order of evil only referred to as the “Senior Partners,” whose ultimate goal is to perpetuate “man’s inhumanity to man,” just the everyday evils that humans are willing to commit against one another. In that goal, they can never truly be vanquished, because that inherent evil will always exist. Angel never actually encounters a “Senior Partner” as they work entirely behind the scenes, but he does assassinate their Earthly liaisons, “The Circle of the Black Thorn.” Sticking with the message of the show, evil can never be truly defeated.
Spike was never really an accepted part of the gang on “Buffy” and always remained a kind of “outside man,” even until the end when he sacrificed himself to save the world. Not long after he gave his life though, he turned up in Angel’s office, and the chemistry with team Angel clicked so well, it made you wonder why he wasn’t on this show to begin with. He clicked particularly well with Angel, the only other vampire in the world with a soul, but in a “sibling rivalry” kind of way that was fun to watch.
Spike and Angel have a long history together, spending almost a century torturing and feeding on the innocent, but even then they had a tense rivalry. When they’re both on the side of good, that rivalry continues. Angel is always brooding over his guilt, while Spike barely shows signs of remorse, acting cocky and aloof despite being a killer for far longer. This digs at Angel, just as Angel’s serious attitude digs at Spike.
Winifred “Fred” Burkle came to “Angel” under unusual circumstances even for a show where unusual circumstances are the rule rather than the exception. She was trapped in a hell dimension for five years where humans were slaughtered like cattle. She escapes to hide in a cave until Angel finds her and brings her back to the Earthly realm. For a while, she’s not a character the audience thought they were going to enjoy. She’s skittish, kind of crazy and has a pretty bad case of P.T.S.D.
However, she eventually finds her place within the group and on the show. Her skittishness transitions into a kind of sweet innocence, and her genius-level intellect makes her not only an asset to the group, but also into a love interest for Wesley, who’s the only other major bookworm on the team. After three seasons of “will they, won’t they” tension, they finally confess their love, just before Fred tragically dies and her body is thereon inhabited by the demon, Illyria.
In the season two episode, “Epiphany,” Angel sums up the philosophy of the show perfectly in one quote: “If there’s no great glorious end to all this, if nothing we do matters, all that matters is what we do… Because if there’s no bigger meaning, then the smallest act of kindness is the greatest thing in the world.” The show begins with Angel on a quest for redemption, for his evil deeds, but he comes to realize that there is no balancing scale of good and bad deeds. Seeking to do good for the reward of redemption is a meaningless pursuit.
Even in the series finale, “Not Fade Away,” the show ends with all the forces of evil charging toward Angel and his team in an alley. Angel smiles and says, “Let’s go to work.” Roll credits. While this angered some fans, it hits the message of the show perfectly. There is no grand conclusion where everything is wrapped up nicely. Doing the right thing and trying to stop others from suffering is a never-ending battle. Life is a series of struggles with no single enemy to overcome. The struggle always goes on.
“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is very much a story about growing up. Buffy has to navigate life as an outcast high schooler, try to balance a romantic life with her other responsibilities, go to college and eventually take care of her sister. While the “coming of age” tale is something familiar, it’s a much more simple and finite concept than the theme of “Angel.” Angel is an adult trying to live with himself and every damaging thing he’s been through over the years.
High School is a formative time in people’s lives, but most people looking back roll their eyes at the cliques, the struggle for popularity and the meaningless drama. Living as a broken adult with emotional damage in their past is something almost every adult can understand, because they continue to deal with it every day of their lives. This makes Angel more relatable for most people, and it tells an infinitely deeper, more complex story, with no clear end.
All good things must come to an end. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” was originally meant to end after Season 5, but was revived by UPN, and some fans feel that it should have stayed dead. The series finale is decent, following Buffy and the gang along with the new potential Slayers as they take on an army of Ubervamps in Sunnydale High School. It’s a fitting end to the series. Buffy finds normalcy in life and Sunnydale is destroyed along with the Hellmouth that plagued them for the entire series. Every loose end is wrapped up nicely.
“Not Fade Away,” the finale of “Angel,” doesn’t tie up loose ends so cleanly, and in fact, cuts to credits moments before a massive battle between Angel’s team and an army of evil. This is a controversial ending among fans, but it’s the only ending that could have fit thematically with the rest of the series. Angel’s quest was never to vanquish all evil and finally reach that mythical plateau of victory. From very early on in the series, he understood that his quest was about continuing to fight every single day, without end, because it’s the right thing to do.
Are there any other reasons that prove “Angel” is better than “Buffy The Vampire Slayer?” Or maybe you just disagree with us entirely? Either way, be sure to let us know in the comments section!
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