Spinning out of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel aired on the WB for five seasons from 1999-2004. The series focused on the titular vampire with a soul (David Boreanaz) as he left Sunnydale - and his true love - behind. Setting up shop in L.A., Angel became something of a paranormal private investigator, led from one lost soul to another by his half-demon companion, Doyle. He was also joined by Buffy alum and former mean girl, Cordelia Chase, and later, ousted watcher, Wesley Wyndam-Pryce. Several more heroes became an integral part of Angel Investigations as well, including empath and singer extraordinaire Lorne, demon hunter Charles Gunn, and dimension-hopping Fred Burkle. Even Buffy’s other beau, Spike, eventually found his way to L.A.
A bit darker in tone than its predecessor, Angel featured lovable characters and unpredictable stories, revealing itself to be one of TV's greatest spinoffs. With over one hundred episodes aired, some were certainly better than others though. Let’s look at the best and the worst of the bunch.
10 Best - Smile Time
After a somewhat lackluster 4th outing, Season 5 pulled off a rather brilliant paradigm shift. Evil law firm, Wolfram & Hart, had been the show’s Big Bad since the beginning and suddenly Team Angel found themselves running the corporation. This led to a slew of fantastic episodes, including an excellent finale. However, “Smile Time” has to be the season’s most unforgettable installment.
Angel finds himself transformed into an adorable puppet and must fight malevolent demons masquerading as the stars of a beloved children's show. What probably sounded ridiculous on paper proved truly inspired, because this episode is pure genius. From puppet Angel beating up Spike in an elevator to the long-awaited kiss between Fred and Wesley, “Smile Time” will always be ranked among Angel’s best.
9 Worst - Provider
There isn’t much to love about “Provider”. The season 3 episode finds Angel Investigations taking on too many cases now that they have baby Connor to support. It’s all fun and games until Fred almost loses her head, although no one’s cases go according to plan. Of all the avenues that were explored about Angel’s new status as a dad, this had to be the blandest of them all.
Yes, having a kid is both a gift and a huge financial burden, but “Provider” doesn’t bring anything new to the table here. It’s just an episode fans were forced to sit through while waiting for Holtz to make his next move.
8 Best - Reunion
Darla was an underused character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but resurrecting Angelus’s sire for Angel was a brilliant move that led to some of season 2’s best stories. Wolfram & Hart had brought her back as a human who was dying, just as Darla had been before she was sired herself. When Angel failed to make her a vampire once more as the law firm had hoped, they brought in the big guns: Drusilla.
Adding Drusilla to any episode is never a bad idea, but there was more to “Reunion” than the chemistry between Julie Benz and Juliet Landau. Wolfram & Hart had failed to elicit the reaction they’d hoped for, but that doesn’t mean that their actions didn’t affect Angel. After trying so hard to save Darla the episode before, her return to form was too much for him. Angel completely snapped, not only letting the girls kill an entire roomful of lawyers, but also firing everyone close to him.
7 Worst - Expecting
As unpleasant as Cordelia’s second pregnancy was, “Expecting” was worse. Much like Buffy’s 1st season, Angel had several bad episodes to choose from during its first outing as well. This one was probably the most awful. As if anyone needed another heavy-handed metaphor about the dangers of casual dating, Cordelia gets pregnant after a one-night stand - at least there was a Ken Marino cameo.
This is Angel though, so she gets pregnant with demon spawn and comes to term almost immediately. Of course, Angel and Wesley save Cordy and the other girls suffering from the same predicament. If everyone’s being honest though, this episode is only memorable for being kind of gross.
6 Best - Sleep Tight
Season 3 episode “Sleep Tight” is heartbreaking for multiple reasons. Wesley makes an incredibly difficult decision in order to save Connor’s life. He tries to take the baby and run, but inadvertently gives Angel’s child to his mortal enemy. This seems like an unforgivable betrayal, but Wolfram & Hart went through a lot of trouble to make Wesley believe that Angel would kill Connor.
Thanks to a series of very unfortunate events, Wesley winds up with his throat cut, and Holtz gets a hold of Connor. In one of the show’s most gut-wrenching moments, Angel is powerless to stop Holtz from jumping through the portal into a hell dimension known as Quor’toth, with Connor in his arms.
5 Worst - Double Or Nothing
Poor Charles Gunn. He’s one of Angel’s best characters, but some of the show’s worst episodes happen to center on him. Remember finding out that Gunn literally sold his soul for a pickup truck? That’s right, he had finally found happiness with Fred, but almost lost it all thanks to a poor decision made during his wayward youth.
Sure, it makes sense that Gunn didn’t think that he had a future and therefore, was willing to sacrifice it for something he needed at the time. That being said, “Double or Nothing” simply isn’t very good. With much more interesting plot developments happening throughout season 3, this one always felt like a boring distraction from everything that actually mattered.
4 Best - Deep Down
“Deep Down” may have been Angel’s best premiere ever. If only the rest of season 4 could’ve lived up to that potential. Seriously, our hero was trapped at the bottom of the ocean while his ungrateful brat of a son was having a blast with the best surrogate parents ever - who wouldn’t want to live with Fred and Gunn?
Also, Wesley, who’s now cooler than he’s ever been, kidnapped Justine in an effort to find Angel. Not only did he succeed, but he even fed the delirious vampire his own blood in order to sustain him. So, Connor’s duplicity was revealed and Angel finally got the chance for a proper father/son chat.
3 Worst - The Girl In Question
Has there ever been a more disappointing episode than “The Girl in Question”? This season 5 installment did include Darla and Drusilla, which is always a plus. However, not even those two crazy vamps could save it. Angel and Spike spend an entire episode searching for Buffy, who’s apparently dating their arch rival - who no one had ever heard of before this point.
The comics later revealed that the girl dating the Immortal was merely a decoy Buffy, as if the writers were distancing themselves from this strange episode. Contrary to popular belief, Sarah Michelle Gellar was never going to appear in this installment, but a Buffy cameo is kind of the only thing that could’ve saved it.
2 Best - I Will Remember You
It was a tough call between this one and “Five By Five”, but “I Will Remember You” takes it for giving fans what they’d spent years hoping for - however briefly. This crossover with Buffy the Vampire Slayer sees Buffy heading to L.A. to tell Angel off for coming to Sunnydale and lurking in the shadows. However, after fighting a “mutant ninja demon thing”, the creature’s blood mixes with Angel’s and he becomes human.
From that amazing kiss on the beach (in broad daylight) to post-coital cookie dough fudge mint chip, viewers finally got a glimpse of a happy Buffy/Angel romance. Sadly, that whole saving the world thing got in the way once again. Angel had to ask the Oracles to turn back time and return him to his immortal form. The real catch: Angel alone would remember the day. Buffy pleading with Angel and promising him that she won’t forget remains one of the most heartbreaking moments in the entire series.
1 Worst - Slouching Toward Bethlehem
Season 4 may have been the show’s weakest, but “Slouching Toward Bethlehem” is the worst offender of the bunch. Having Cordelia and Angel enter into a romantic relationship was already a divisive move, but keeping them apart by giving Cordy amnesia was just plain silly.
Cordelia returned from her time in a higher dimension with no memory of the life she had before. Aside from that, Angel and the gang were trying to keep their demon hunting a secret, which goes about as well as one would expect. Lila uses her affair with Wesley to her advantage and the extra creepy romance between Connor and Cordelia begins. The season definitely had its high points, but this was not one of them.