Every TV show that has ever existed longs to get its audience emotionally invested into its story and its characters, but it's rare that shows manage to engage their audiences (and crush their hearts and souls) in the way that Angel did. It's easily one of the best genre-shows ever created, and it's brutal plot twists were powerful enough to leave a permanent mark on the minds of its viewers.
But on a show that seems to specialize in heartbreak, what were the true landmark moments in the story that left permanent cracks and bruises in the hearts of fangirls and boys everywhere? Angel had plenty of memorable and powerful twists and turns, but there are a few that stand head and shoulders above the rest. So here are the 10 best (or 10 worst, depending on your perspective) moments of Angel that broke our hearts in two.
10 The Will They/Won't They Of Fred And Wesley
When TV characters are on their way to a relationship it's nice to see some good and interesting development along the way. It can even be pleasant in a kind of torturous way when writers decide to tease out a relationship for as long as possible before finally delivering the goods. And as soon as Fred Burkle showed up, she and Wesley seemed like a match made in heaven.
It was only a matter of time before they wound up together. Or at least that's what the story made you think. After literal years of almost becoming the power couple they were meant to be, Fred And Wes finally got it together. Only for Fred to kick the bucket. One. Episode. Later.
9 Gunn Loses His Sister
Even before he became a permanent member of Team Angel, Charles Gunn was one of the baddest and most intimidating vampire hunters in all of Los Angeles. But that means that it wasn't a huge surprise when the vampires he hunted made their revenge as brutal as they possibly could.
Protecting his sister Alonna was one of the few things Gunn truly cared about, so the audience's hearts were broken along with his own when Alonna was turned into a vampire. It was a cruel twist that seemed straight out of the Angelus playbook, but Gunn did what he had to do and slew a vampire, even if that vampire was wearing his sister's face.
8 Angel Becomes Mortal
Angel's mortality and lack thereof was one of the overarching themes of the entire Angel series, but the first time that it was seriously confronted in the show was also one of the most heartbreaking moments in Angel's history. Theoretically, Angel was potentially going to become human again once he had redeemed himself through his heroic acts, but on one fateful day, Angel became human again essentially by accident.
He was hunting a demon who's blood turned him mortal, and unsurprisingly Angel's first order of business was to reunite with his beloved Buffy. But after a day of bliss Angel realized that his mortal self was a danger to Buffy, so he had the day undone and was the only one who remembered what could have been.
7 Buffy Is Dead
Love isn't really a competition, but if it were then Buffy and Angel would probably win it. I mean, loving someone so much that you lose your soul is a pretty intense kind of love. BtVS shocked the world when they killed Buffy off in the finale of season 5, and understandably the effect of that loss was felt on the spinoff.
The loss of the great love of his life is something that Angel never thought he'd have to confront, and the show did a lovely job of establishing how truly devastating it was for Buffy to die and for Angel not to die with her.
6 Connor Is Taken To Hell
Angel is a character who thought that he was very familiar with experiences of loss, and although he had definitely been put through the wringer before it's safe to say that nothing could really compare to having his son abducted by his greatest enemy and taken to the worst of all hell dimensions.
After Angelus utterly destroyed the life of the vampire hunter Daniel Holtz it's easy to understand why Holtz wanted revenge, but no one could have expected that Holtz would steal Angel's miracle baby and take him to the darkest of dark worlds. Revenge is a dish best served cold, and Holtz's payback was sub-zero.
5 Darla's Sacrifice
When it comes to Angel it's good to expect the unexpected, but it was without a doubt the shock of a lifetime for the long-absent Darla to suddenly show up expecting Angel's baby. Darla was easily one of the scariest and coolest badass ladies in all of the Buffyverse, and her initial adverse reaction to a pregnancy that she couldn't get rid of was completely in character.
However, that made her eventual transformation into a woman who wanted her child to survive, even at her own expense, all the more heart-wrenching. Darla staking herself so that Connor wouldn't die was an epic tearjerker moment that no one would have ever expected.
4 Doyle Becomes The Hero
Angel at its core is a show about finding heroes in the most unexpected places, so it shouldn't have been a surprise that Angel's new companion Doyle would become a hero even when he didn't want to be. But it most certainly was a surprise that his leap from half-demon visionary to hero was a literal leap to his own death.
Doyle managed to win over the audience in under ten episodes, so it was especially brutal to see his character (who had been billed as one of the lead characters of the entire series) die so soon, even if it was for a good cause.
3 Cordelia's Last Gasp
Generally, if you spend months in a coma after giving magical birth to a god, things aren't looking that great. But for one brief episode, it looked like our precious Cordelia Chase might actually recover from her literal pregnancy from hell, only for that glimmer of hope to be snatched away right at the very end.
Cordy comes back to get the whole Angel Investigations squad back on track after they've all been sucked into Wolfram & Hart's allure, and after she's successfully reminded her heroes that they're heroes Angel, along with the audience, comes to realize that Cordelia only came back to say her last goodbyes.
2 Wesley Dies
The entire crew of Team Angel went into their final stand against the senior partners with the expectation that they wouldn't survive it, with the notable exception of Wesley. So it wasn't an enormous surprise that in the end, Wesley was the only main character to conclusively kick the bucket. But the lack of surprise didn't make it any less heartbreaking, and in a classic Whedonesque move, Wesley's final moments were extra painful.
Illyria arrives just moments too late to save Wesley, but in a final act of mercy she pretends to be Fred, so at least Wes can spend his final moments on earth with the woman he's always loved.
1 Fred Becomes Illyria
When it comes to the Buffyverse, it's not enough to just kill off the characters everyone loves. It has to be excruciating and drawn out enough that the audience winds up begging for a quick death. And there's really no better example of this than Fred's brutal, seemingly endless dying episode.
In the great battle of good vs. evil it's safe to assume you're going to lose some of your soldiers, but watching Fred slowly deteriorate in her mind and her body while Wesley helplessly watches and the rest of Team Angel fruitlessly tries to save her was the most brutal death imaginable.