The writers of the Whedonverse (Buffy, Angel, Dollhouse, Firefly) have a certain niche in their bowl of niches when it comes to predicaments for their characters. It’s all about combining real life fears with the terror the characters face within the episodes. We’ve all read about the monsters as metaphors for teen issues that we got in Buffy The Vampire Slayer. As Buffy’s (Sarah Michelle Gellar) tragic beau, Angel (David Boreanaz), left Sunnydale, and headed to LA, so did those horrific metaphors.
Those metaphors grew up when Angel premiered on this day, 20 years ago. Long gone were the anxieties of teenagers. Angel introduced us – most of us who were still teenagers at the time – to the horrors of the grown up world. And by “grown up world,” I mean hard hitting, in your face, holy heck that’s some scary sh#t kind of issues. They still came in the guise of monsters, demons, and other scaries of the night. Allow me to introduce you to five episodes where the scary things fully succeeded in frightening my body, psyche, and heart. But be warned, for there will be spoilers.
5. City of . . . (Season 2, Episode 1)
The pilot episode of Angel quickly settled Angel and Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) into Los Angeles, but as ex-members of the Scooby Gang, their settling in didn’t go so swell. Along with Doyle (Glenn Quinn), the vision wealthy demon sent by The Powers that Be, they begin to investigate the disappearance of girls within LA. Turns out, a wealthy vampire lures girls into his Hollywood home with promises of fame and wealth. They end up being his dinner. When Tina (played by Wes Craven’s New Nightmare’s Tracy Middendorf!), the girl whose Doyle’s vision leads them to ends up dead, the wealthy vampire sets his sights on Cordelia.
This is terrifying as its one of many warnings that was given before the #MeToo movement occurred. Although the end results weren’t sexual in nature, there was still a man who used his power along with the promise of fame as a means of ruining these girl’s lives. As a vampire, he sucked their life away which is metaphor enough for the ruined lives that people have experienced at the hands of such powerful individuals.
4. I Will Remember You (Season 1, Episode 8)
Relationships. They can be wonderful, but the majority of us have experienced the heartache that occurs when one ends. Buffy and Angel have ended a relationship twice before (Angelus’ first appearance, Angel leaving Sunnydale), and while those were heartbreaking, nothing could prepare us for the heartbreak that is the end of this episode.
Buffy travels to LA after learning that Angel was secretly in Sunnydale, and didn’t see her. Within the first few moments of her arrival, they fight a demon, whose blood mixes with Angel’s, causing him to become human. Buffy and Angel take advantage of his newfound humanity, and indulge in many activities that they couldn’t when he was a vampire thanks to that gypsy curse placed upon him. When Angel realizes that without his vampire strength, he means nothing, and can not stealthily save the world.
While it’s a bit cringe inducing that he comes to this realization after Buffy manages to redefeat the aforementioned demon without his help, the part where she realizes that Angel has made a deal with The Powers that Be to become a vampire with a soul again only if the prior 24 hours is erased makes her reaction hard to watch. The bliss that was in the realization that they could be together is replaced with the destruction of feelings as they both panic in the realization that it can never be. Scariest part? Angel gets to live with the memories while Buffy will never get to relive them.
3. The Trial (Season 2, Episode 9)
Angel’s sire, Darla (Julie Benz), was brought back to life at the end of season 1 by the evil lawyers at Wolfram & Hart as means to distract and / or destroy him. The downer? She’s brought back human, and contains all of her prevamp humanity which includes being near death from syphilis. Angel’s heart is big, and Darla seems willing to accept her humanity and not indulge in her vamp life’s evil ways so he sets out the gain her a second chance at life. He is presented with a series of tests to prove his devotion to Darla. He succeeds the tests of endurance and of pain only to be told that Darla is already experiencing her second chance, and can not be granted any other chances. Our vamp with a soul can not catch a break with the women in his life as well as with gaining some good for the world.
Viewing this episode through the eyes of someone who is fighting to save a sick loved one, and failing, no matter what they do or can be done medically (or mystically), makes this episode one of the scariest. Also scary? The return of Buffy season 2 foe, Drusilla, and her cure for Darla’s disease: siring her, and making her a vampire again thus destroying Darla’s soul, and bringing about the damnation that is vampire Darla. The return of Drusilla is every bit as exciting as it is terrifying. She is a powerhouse, and it was assured that she, along with a newly sired Darla, would create havoc and death.
2. Habeas Corpses (Season 4, Episode 8)
I’m going to take a minute and be salty for a second, and say the entirety of Angel season 4 is scary in the sense that it took a storyline and bashed it over the head with an “Make this insane” bat. It is atrocious. It had its moments of goodness, but geez.
The scary part of this episode actually comes not in the form of any sort of metaphor, but in the form of some good ol’ fashioned zombie fun. Due to circumstances that is way too complicated to fully explain (due to the insanity that is the season’s storyline), Angel and co are locked within the confines of Wolfram & Hart. The big bad of the season has destroyed the building, killing everyone within. Our heroes are there to find Angel’s son, but are met with a plethora of zombified lawyers. Habeaus Corpses has one of the more horror centric scenes out of the whole series. There’s a sense of dread that is both fun and tense before the zombies start a-shambling.
1. A Hole in the World – (Season 5, Episode 15)
Thankfully season 5 rebounded off of season 4’s ick, and it did so with many wonderful episodes. A Hole in the World – for me – is one of the best episodes out of the entire series. It showcases every character’s strengths. It has some pretty intense moments. It grabs your heart, squeezes really hard, throws it against the wall, and then stomps on it. Thanks to the release of trapped air from a sarcophagus that Fred (Amy Acker) is investigating, she becomes infected with a sickness that the gang can not figure out how to eradicate. The sicker she gets, the more intense the moments become. The sickness that took over her was actually a demon named Illyria that had been banned within the sarcophagus.
Angel and Spike (James Marsters) discover a way to save Fred and ban Illyria back to the sarcophagus. In doing that, though, they will destroy millions of innocent lives. They don’t save her. Fred eventually … she doesn’t … the damn demon takes over her, and in one of the most heart wrenching scenes in the Whedonverse, she dies in the arms of Wesley (Alexis Denisof), who has loved her from the beginning. What’s terrifying is that she doesn’t just die. Her soul is eradicated. There is no afterlife for her. There is no mystically bringing her back as had been done with other characters. And don’t you dare judge me for sobbing hysterically every time Fred says, “Why can’t I stay?” before dying.
The real life scary, here? Sometimes, no matter what you do and what great lengths you are willing to travel, there is no saving someone. Also, Fred being gone forever with her soul being eradicated? Horrifying for such a good and noble character.
“These are 5 Angel episodes of carnage and sadness that have scared and scarred me for life. There are 105 other episodes with the same ingredients.”
These are 5 Angel episodes of carnage and sadness that have scared and scarred me for life. There are 105 other episodes with the same ingredients. Honorable mentions go to the kid possession tale in I’ve Got You Under My Skin, the creepy stalker tale in I Fall to Pieces, Doyle’s heroic tale in Hero, Angel’s descent into madness due to Darla and Drusilla’s reign of chaos in Reunion, and in the series finale, Not Fade Away, which shows us that the battle never ends.
Twenty years since Angel began, and now that I’m grown up, I feel the metaphors that the scares portrayed throughout its five seasons. Are you feeling them? Which Angel moment scared and scarred you the most? Let us know over on our Twitter, Reddit, and on The Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook. Just be sure to SPOILER tag because I want those who haven’t experienced those moments to be just as scared and scarred as we were.