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Angel: Season 3 (2001) – DVD Review

Angel: Season 3 DVD cover art


Series Created by Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt
Starring David Boreanaz, Charisma Carpenter, Alexis Denisof, J. August Richards, Amy Acker, Andy Hallett


  • All twenty-two third season episodes
  • Featurettes:
    • Darla: Deliver Us from Evil
    • Season 3 Overview
    • Page to Screen
  • Deleted scenes with commentary
  • Outtakes
  • Screen tests for Amy Acker and Vincent Kartheiser
  • Photo gallery
  • Running audio commentaries:
    • Episode 6: “Billy” by writers Tim Minear and Jeffrey Bell
    • Episode 9: “Lullaby” with writer Tim Minear and story editor Mere Smith
    • Episode 13: “Waiting in the Wings” by with Joss Whedon

Released by: Fox Video.
Rating: NR
Region: 1
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format.

My Advice: Whedon fans should own, others should rent.

After mourning the death of his former lover, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel (Boreanaz) returns to his friends at Angel Investigations ready to resume saving the relatively innocent citizens of L.A. from the forces of darkness. Little due they know they will be busy trying to save themselves. Darla (Julie Benz), Angel’s sire (i.e. vampire who created him) and former lover, returns great with child, a result of a night of angry sex with Angel. Since vampires don’t get pregnant, there are obviously mysterious forces at work. While Angel contemplates his future, a foe from his past returns. Holtz (Jackson Bolt) wants Angel to suffer as he suffered when Angel wiped out his family. And since family is involved, Darla’s baby, Conner, is going to caught in the crossfire.

Angel’s not the only one going through major changes. Cordelia’s (Carpenter) guiding visions are growing more and more painful. So to keep helping Angel, she agrees to become part demon. This transformation will leave to even more painful decisions. Wesley (Denisof), after being thwarted in his pursuit of new addition Fred (Acker) by hunky Gunn (Richards), discovers a prophecy that Angel will kill his son. So Wesley gives the baby to Holtz to protect him. Holtz then escapes with the baby to a hell dimension. Abandoned by the group for this apparent betrayal, Wesley is tempted to change sides by the sexy lawyer Lilah (Stephanie Romanov) of the demonic law firm of Wolfham and Hart. The gang also has to deal with the eventual return of Conner (Kartheiser), all grown up and with some major anger towards Angel. Forces seem to be separating this once tight-knit team and their fate has become uncertain.

Suffering has been a crucial element of drama since the ancient Greeks. The agony Oedipus inflicts upon himself for his hubris is still acted out on stages to this day. Angel‘s third season continues this concept and Whedon, Greenwalt, and the rest of the writing staff put their characters through some serious shit. Angel and Cordelia growing closer together but separated by Angel’s curse to lose his soul if he finds perfect happiness, and Angel finding his grown son now despises him and will ultimately betray him. All this pain is made palatable by the sharp writing. The snappy dialogue that was a trademark with Buffy is in full effect on its spin-off. They also never rely on the conventional. For example, Holtz never has the cliché moment when he sees the error of his ways. No matter what he does, it’s all to make the vampire who killed his family suffer and suffer greatly. It’s nice to see a TV show not take the easy way out of a situation.

Strong performances are another trademark that Angel inherited from Buffy. Boreanaz and Carpenter, now quite familiar with their roles, ably handle their new leading roles. Much credit must be given to Carpenter who has added so much depth to a role that started as yet another Popular Cheerleader Bitch. It is entirely credible that she is now worthy of Angel’s attention and even ascends to another plane of existence. Boreanaz in this season does lighten up more in playing Angel, especially after the dark turns from last season. Still, Angel is so much about guilt and angst and brooding, it’s difficult for him to truly show what he is capable of. We do get glimpses though. Boreanaz has great comedic timing and when he’s allowed to be funny, he’s great at it.

The supporting cast is a bit hit or miss. Denisof, as the repressed Englishman Wesley, always underplays the emotions of the character. But when he’s allowed to cut loose, it makes the explosion that much more powerful. Also, Hallett is wonderful as the singing demon Lorne. He manages to distill the best of the lounge singer and the bartender-confidante and makes a fine asset to the team. Acker plays the off-kilter genius Fred with too much manic whirling around and that wears on you after a while. Gunn’s character is expanding some, but he still has too many Angry Urban Youth moments.

There is a veritable mountain of special features to go through. There are three commentaries with the writers talking about certain episodes. All three are quite entertaining, discussing the difficulties of translating an idea to a written script to an episode and how sometimes who have to be brutal when cutting material to fit time constraints. What I especially like is they stop themselves when they start going into “commentary for the blind,” i.e. telling what’s on the screen when the viewer can plainly see this. This is so refreshing, only those who have watched as many DVDs as I have can truly appreciate how wonderful this is. You also learn some behind the screens info like when Whedon tells how he wrote the episode “Waiting in the Wings” to give Amy Acker a chance to perform ballet. Then he had to cut that scene for time. I know that Angel is known for its writing, but I thought it was odd that no directors, cinematographers, or anyone involved in the visual aspect commented on the show.

This seems to be rectified by one of the behind the scenes featurettes on the set called appropriately “From Page To Screen.” The other two are a primer on the various story and character arcs in the third season and a focus on Benz’ Darla, regarding the evolution of this character who is so important to Angel. There are two major deleted scenes, one showing the sitcom that an alternate Cordelia would star in and a daydream of Wesley showing Fred as a beautiful ballerina and himself as a bumbling idiot, with commentary discussing why they had to be cut. We also get the usual photo gallery, outtakes with various flubs and missteps, and screen tests for Acker and Kartheiser.

The extras are quite complete and well made. Angel may be gone but you can still experience what by the third season was turning into a remarkable show in its own right. The boxed set is worth the while of the show’s fans, but still good for a rental for anybody who didn’t have the pleasure of catching it when it originally aired.

Buy it from Amazon.

Previously: Season 4 review