I didn’t expect to be rewatching – no less reviewing here – the last handful of episodes of “Angel,” the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” spinoff that was, in some seasons, superior to “Buffy.”
But after watching “Smile Time” and the devastating “A Hole in the World,” we decided to rewatch a couple more episodes.
“Shells” is a continuation of “A Whole in the World,” in which lovable Fred (Amy Acker) is possessed by Illyria, an Ancient One looking to re-enter our world and rebuild its former kingdom.
While Angel, Spike, Gunn and Lorne continue to look for a way to reach an apparently impossible goal – re-infusing Fred’s soul into her body, now a blue, ambulatory but holy-moly-she-looks-good-in-blue-skin home for Illyria.
Illyria, meanwhile, plans to call forth her demon minions … but is in for an unpleasant surprise. With no undead army to command, she turns to Wesley, still morose over Fred’s death, to give her a reason for continuing to exist on this plain.
In “Underneath,” the plot points that will drive the rest of the season – and the series – are introduced. Duplicitous Eve, the former liaison to Wolfram & Harts’ senior partners, tells our heroes where they can find Lindsay, whose help they’ll need to defeat the apocalyptic plans of the senior partners.
Introduced was Adam Baldwin – so great as Jayne on “Firefly” a few years later – as Marcus Hamilton, the new liaison to the senior partners who will, ultimately be the surrogate Big Bad later in the season.
There’s no huge revelation or plot turning point in “Shells” and “Underneath.” They feel like mopping-up and setting-up episodes, in a way, continuing the origin of Illyria and setting up the final conflict. But damned if they aren’t strong hour-long fantasy dramas, deepening the characters we already know, returning favorites like Lindsay and making us love Amy Acker even more than we thought we could before.
The five episodes to come give us the return of Connor – a much more liable character than he was previously – and even Buffy, in a way.
“Angel” was overshadowed, in some ways, by “Buffy” during much of its run. But with the final season of “Buffy” over before season five of “Angel” began, it felt like all the stars aligned just at the right moment, giving us our only contact with the Buffyverse and great, beloved characters at their moments of truth.