Review By Paul Mount, 4.5 out of 5 ANGEL. To many it’s just BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER’s impudent offspring, the show which stands forever in the shadow of its bigger, spikier sister. To others it’s a dark, grim tale of the quest for redemption, a story much darker and visceral that the eternally sunny antics of the Slayer and her Scoobies, a series which uses horror and humour like unholy bloodbrothers to forge a tale quite unlike any other on contemporary television. I’m as guilty as you’ve probably been in undervaluing ANGEL, airing as it does in the UK either in a laughably-butchered version on Channel Four or scheduled directly after an hour of BUFFY one Sky One. ANGEL is far too intense and complex a show to be watched half-heartedly. It demands your undivided attention. I’m grateful to Fox for giving me the opportunity to sit and watch episode after episode of this wonderful, wonderful series complete and unedited and without annoying advertising breaks. I’m here to tell you that Season 3 of ANGEL is a staggering piece of work, the best season of television yet created by Joss Whedon and his Mutant Enemy whizzkids and, for that matter, the best television boxset yet released in the UK.

But why? Why is this season of ANGEL so awesome? It’s about the stories, people, as it always should be. Angel (the character) went to some pretty dark places in Season Two as Darla (Julie Benz) the vampire who sired him and who was dispatched in an early episode of BUFFY is supernaturally resurrected by Angel’s deadly enemies at lawyers Wolfram and Hartt purely to drive Angel crazy. It so nearly works as Angel turns against his detective pals Cordelia, Gunn and Wesley and, for a few weeks at least, seems to be about to return to the evil ways of his soul-free alter ego as Angelus the killing machine. By the end of Season two Angel is back in the fold and old friendships are slowly being reforged ?but not before Angel succumbs to Darla’s vampiric charms. The series ends with the frankly ghastly three-parter set in Pylea, the home dimension of friendly karaoke demon Lorne (are you still with me?). Returning to L.A. with new recruit Fred (Amy Acker) in tow, Angel and his team learn of the death of Angel’s old lover Buffy at the end of season five of her own show.

So to Season three. Angel’s off to a Sri Lankan retreat to come to terms with the death of his beloved. Returning to L.A. he’s immediately pitched back into a series of quirky investigations which cleverly develop the regular characters whilst laying the groundwork for the huge storyline which is to dominate the rest of the season. Darla’s backond she’s pregnant. The repercussions of this are enormous. Angel’s old foe from the 17th century, vampire hunter Holz (Keith Szarabajka) has been brought forward into the modern day and he has old scores to settle. Ancient prophecies pointing towards Amageddon force Wesley (Alexis Denisof) to apparently change his allegiances and when Angel’s newborn son Connor turns into a teenager (Vincent Kartheiser), the pieces fall into place for a truly chilling season finale with Angel investigations cast to the four winds and Angel facing a watery doom.

I guarantee that this is one series you just won’t be able to stop watching. The stand-alone episodes which kick off the season are captivating (particularly the hilarious bodyswap story ‘Carpe Noctum’) but when the action hots up in ‘Offspring’ it’s a non-stop rollercoaster right up to season finale ‘Tomorrow’. ANGEL Season three is packed with good stories well told. The scripts are sparkling, the imagery is breath-taking, the acting outstanding, the visual effects right up there with the best ever seen on television. This is one boxset you’ll return to again and again and the greatest tragedy is that ANGEL isn’t recognised as the work of genius it so clearly is. Practically faultless.

THE DISCS: Nice crisp transfers but with some grain evident during darker sequences. So what? Extras are plentiful and interesting. The Godlike Joss Whedon provides a commentary for his unusual ‘Waiting in the Wings’ episode and Tim Minear and Mere Smith and wonderfully disrespectful in their commentary for ‘Lullaby’. There are trailers galore (for other BUFFY boxets and, curiously, the ghastly Kirty Swanson film which started it all) and meaty features such as a seaon overview, a feature on Darlas, a couple of screentests, some amusing outtakes (where the bleep machine often doesn’t get in on time) and the usual stills gallery. There’s even a couple of deleted scenes. Go on, you know you want it?ou know you won’t be disappointed.

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