Top 25 Episodes: Ryan’s Favorites

[Article by Ryan Bovay]


#25 “Dear Boy” [2×05] – A very creepy look at Angel’s obsession and his sordid past with Darla, though it only scratches the surface of the episode of the same name. Still, his obsession with tracking her down, the conflicts with Kate, Wes and Cordy are all hugely worthwhile. And Darla has a soul too. Neat stuff.

#24 “Salvage” [4×13] – The best of the Faith episodes and exactly the shot in the arm Season Four needed at this point. The resurrection of Faith from obscurity is masterfully handled, as is how well she’s incorporated into S4’s main story. Throw in some good drama, kick-ass fights and take out all the conceptual problems the other Faith episodes have, and you have “Salvage.”

#23 “That Old Gang of Mine” [3×03] – Gunn comes to terms with working for a demon in this complex and interesting look at morality in the Angel-verse. Strong conflicts and an intelligent metaphor for races and cultures make this and important as well as memorable episode.

#22 “Inside Out” [4×17] – Sporting some of the most intricate philosophy in the series, this episode has a well rounded set of themes on morality, destiny, and opposites; Cordy is bad, Darla is good, and the writers elevate Connor to a tragic figure in a truly sympathetic conflict.

#21 “Are You Now or Have You Ever Been?” [2×02] – A hotel as a character? Who’d have thought? A fan favourite and unique episode of ‘Angel’ that provides beautiful set pieces, an intriguing mystery and an important piece of Angel’s past. Probably the most ‘special’ episode of the series, it also has some of the best metaphors.

#20 “The Prodigal” [1×15] – A superb standalone that, in the best qualities of Season One, brings together a confluence of well foreshadowed character events for some great drama and action. It’s also one of the most important episodes in the series, as we learn why Angel truly feels guilty for his past as Angelus.

#19 “Sleep Tight” [3×16] – Although it’s not as stunning as David Greenwalt’s other best efforts, there’s some of the most utterly gut-wrenching drama of the entire series here. Wesley’s tragedy comes full circle as Holtz carefully manipulates both him and Justine into exacting the key pieces of his revenge, which become clearer and more scary as the episode comes near its close.

#18 “Home” [4×22] – Lilah’s recitation of Angel’s speech from “Deep Down” [4×01] is chilling after all he’s fought for and lost this season. “Home” functions as a setup for S5, possessing all of its greatest qualities, while still providing great closes to the themes and threads of S4. Connor’s conflict and the resolution to it are both tragic, as Angel loses the last thing left he loves.

#17 “I Will Remember You” [1×08] – This is pure drama at its very pinnacle. A few regrettable contrivances keep this episode from rising to greatness, but the raw pain and emotion of Buffy and Angel’s final hurrah is memorable and potent. Top credit goes to Sarah Michelle Gellar and David Boreanaz here.

#16 “Underneath” [5×17] – A surprisingly powerful installment that begins to pick up the pieces of “Shells,” and has Angel begin affirming his new goal at W&H. The metaphor of the holding dimension constructed by the writers cuts to the heart of modern society – quite literally – to deeply intellectual effect.

#15 “Sanctuary” [1×19] – A huge amount happens here, from Kate’s revenge, to Buffy’s arrival in LA and Wesley’s critical decision of whether or not to betray Angel in capturing Faith. Her struggle is expertly interwoven with the season’s main theme, and Angel’s development. All of it is flawlessly webbed together by an airtight script and some great acting from Eliza Dushku.

#14 “Deep Down” [4×01] – This is the episode of Season Four that even Season Four haters love. It’s dark, highly atmospheric and introduces some of the show’s darkest ideas in anticipation of the season ahead. And in the vein of episodes like “City of” and “Epiphany,” establishes a new moral mission statement for Angel as a character and a show.

#13 “Power Play” [5×21] – An episode all about power; who has it, who wields it, why they have it and what needs to be done with it. It’s one of David Fury’s very best offerings as he misleads, confuses, interests and eventually satisfies us with the unforgettable scene where Angel reunites with the Fang Gang to plan the takedown of the Circle.

#12 “Somnambulist” [1×11] – Not only a superb standalone, but a rewarding episode for long time fans. Angel sees his violent and soulless past reflected in the sins of the vampire Penn, as we as an audience are subjected to cruel and deeply frightening reminders of why that past is ever present, dangerous and always a tiny, perfect moment of happiness away.

#11 “Destiny” [5×08] – This is an episode kept from the #1 spot only by my realism as a ‘critic.’ Spike and Angel’s fight has been over a century coming, and sparks some of the most profound dialogue the series has seen as they battle it out over their fates, the meaning of heroes, their age old rivalry and their shared past love interest: Buffy. It doesn’t get any juicier.


#10 “Lullaby” [3×09] – The best episode of Season Three, and one of only a few good episodes in the main arc. The conclusions to Darla’s character and her stunning, noble sacrifice are matched in dramatic potency only by Holtz’s cruelty. It’s such a great setup that it makes much of the story arc following it seem disappointing.

#9 “City of” [1×01] – A brilliant and flawless start to the season that sets up the main themes and metaphors of not only this first season, but the entire series. Angel gains a connection to the world in Doyle and Cordelia, and despite some apparent signs of the episode being a pilot (bad vamp makeup), this is a very impressive start to the series.

#8 “Epiphany” [2×16] – Why is this episode so high? What it lacks in pure drama it easily makes up for in intelligence and philosophy. The character consequences of Angel’s fall are dealt with well, but what makes this episode truly great is its brilliant existential ponderings on the meanings of life and a world without a God or a greater purpose. Its themes become the mission statement for the show.

#7 “Darla” [2×07] – Easily the best crossover with Buffy, this episode matches up with “Fool for Love” in an unforgettable historical continuity line, while also being one of the best shot and written episodes of Angel. The camera has a unique and near-noir eye here, focused on Angel’s epic – and tragic – fight to save Darla. We also get another great piece of his past.

#6 “A Hole in the World” [5×15] – Deeply insightful, AHIW possesses the single best metaphor in Angel’s run. The dialogue on Cavemen vs. Astronauts takes us deep into the characters moralities, and into our own as a human people. Though it sometimes bobs over the top in melodrama, it doesn’t miss in its intended effect in the horrible pain we feel for Fred and Wesley. Amy Acker is Emmy-worthy.

#5 “Reunion” [2×10] – Shocking is the only way to describe it. The most critical piece to Wolfram and Hart’s plan to bring Angel down clicks into place as Darla is re-vampirized, and Angel abandons his mission to help the helpless in a quest for vengeance. The room you’re watching in may just get colder when he utters: “And yet somehow, i just can’t seem to care.”

#4 “To Shanshu in LA” [1×22] – This episode feels huge, and the series changes in ways you wouldn’t expect. Angel finally comes to terms with his existence and realizes its own worth, abandoning his self-pity as his friends are attacked and brought down around him. The confluence of events including Vocah, Lindsey and the Shanshu Prophecy make for an unforgettable experience.

#3 “Shells” [5×16] – Like “A Hole in the World” [5×15], this episode masterfully plumbs the depths of humanity, power and culpability, but is more effective than its predecessor in terms of its lightning-paced plot and wider social scope. The price of power is at last paid – in blood – by Angel and Co, and the impact of it is unforgettable.

#2 “Reprise” [2×15] – A hopelessly dark Tim Minear masterpiece that destroys the themes set down by Season 1. This is an intelligent, sometimes overlooked gem that makes brave and important statements about the nature of the world and evil; literal must-see viewing. Angel gives into perfect despair as Wolfram and Hart’s plan to drag him down into the darkness is complete.


#1 “Not Fade Away” [5×22] – No words can do justice how I feel about this episode, but the quality and quiet drama of the closures to each individual character, and how they play out to their action-packed ends in the second half are amazing. A season of well built themes, characters, and events come to a crashing head as the Fang Gang take on the Circle and win, and go out fighting, maybe dying, because it’s right. This is the quintessentially perfect episode of Angel.

16 thoughts on “Top 25 Episodes: Ryan’s Favorites”

  1. [Note: Kate posted this comment on October 8, 2009.]

    Wow- an almost perfect list. These are YOUR top twenty five, so obviously, nearly everyone won’t agree to the bone with you.

    I would put some episodes which aren’t up here on there (like Orpheus, Damage, maybe Spin the Bottle) and absolutely kick off Dear boy and That Old Gang of Mine.


  2. [Note: Nick posted this comment on March 22, 2010.]

    Pretty similar to my own. Although, I think Orpheus should be there instead of Salvage. And I would have added:

    Smile Time – For it’s crazy/effective concept.

    You’re Welcome – For an overall awesome episode and for redeeming Cordelia after what they did to her character in S4.


  3. [Note: Dimitri posted this comment on February 9, 2011.]

    Great list, but I whould’ve added Orpheus, Spin The Bottle & You’re Welcome, which repairs Cordelia’s character enough so that we can forget about her “character rape” in S4.


  4. [Note: Alexei posted this comment on February 8, 2012.]

    Can’t beleve Lineage, Damage aren’t here. I would even put Five by Five here, but i’m Faith fanboy so… 😀


  5. [Note: Sarah posted this comment on November 16, 2013.]

    Where is You’re Welcome? While I am still pissed off at what the writers did to Cordy’s character, You’re Welcome was just beautiful.


  6. [Note: FaithFanatic posted this comment on January 7, 2014.]

    Interesting to see just how different Ryan’s opinions are from the writers from the Angel Completion Project. ‘Inside Out’ and ‘Home’ only scored 80 from the ACP and Power Play got a mere 68. ‘A Hole in the World’ fares better at 88 but still wouldn’t crack the Top 25 if you ranked them by score.

    Personally, I like this list although I’ve never really got the praise for some of the episodes. I feel ‘Somnambulist’ is vastly overrated, as is ‘City of Angels’ and ‘I Will Remember You.’


  7. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on January 10, 2014.]

    Yeah, Ryan’s scoring always seemed a bit generous to me. And it’s criminal to miss “You’re Welcome.” I’d also want “Lineage” and “Damage” in here, even though I think I was a big generous with “Lineage’s” score myself.

    I wonder what he’d have said about my take on “Power Play.”


  8. [Note: FaithFanatic posted this comment on January 10, 2014.]

    Yeah, when reading your review of ‘Power Play’ and reaching the score at the end I was like … what? Then I remembered it was ACP not Ryan doing reviews.

    Personally, I’d have been a bit more generous than you but there’s no way it would make my top 25 list.


  9. [Note: Noah posted this comment on July 31, 2015.]

    1. A Hole in the World/Shells
    2. Home
    3. Lullaby
    4. Reprise/Epiphany
    5. Are You Now or Have You Ever Been
    6. Benediction
    7. Waiting in the Wings
    8. The Prodigal
    9. Blind Date
    10. Reunion
    11. Untouched
    12. Not Fade Away
    13. Deep Down
    14. Lineage
    15. Smile Time


  10. [Note: Noah posted this comment on July 31, 2015.]

    It gets that position for being the first part of the A Hole in the World/Shells story, which is really one continuous story. If I had to split them up, Shells would come out on top.

    It’s kind of strange to me: I can’t stand the first half of season 5, with only Lineage being very good at all (I don’t get the love for Destiny – then again, I really like season four). But then, starting with “You’re Welcome”, each episode gets better, until “A Hole in the World/Shells” comes along and is the best thing they ever did. What’s up with that?


  11. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on August 1, 2015.]

    Well I think a lot of it was that they kinda had to find their groove with both the new W and H position, bringing Spike over and the less serialized story telling compared to some of the earlier seasons. Once they got all these things right they were able to crank out some gold. Also as far as two parters go I prefer Reprise/Epiphany mostly because that seemed a lot more bold and thought provoking though Hole/Shells is pretty good too.


  12. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on August 1, 2015.]

    I had a top ten list of Angel at some point but it got kind of messy over the years especially with my rising appreciation of Not Fade Away and me not begin able to remember the original list. I believe they included Five by Five/Sanctuary, Reprise/Epiphany, Spin the Bottle, Smile Time and Not Fade Away. I might have to make another one some time.


  13. [Note: Ben Edlund posted this comment on March 29, 2016.]

    Well, to be fair, Ryan never really got a chance to review those. He might have changed his mind after watching it again.


  14. [Note: Ben Edlund posted this comment on March 29, 2016.]

    My list would be:
    1. Not Fade Away
    2. Reprise
    3. Smile Time
    4. Shells
    5. Are You Now or Have You Ever Been
    6. Reunion
    7. Waiting in the Wings
    8. Destiny
    9. Lineage
    10. A Hole in the World
    11. Lullaby
    12. To Shanshu in LA
    13. Sleep Tight
    14. You’re Welcome
    15. I Will Remember You


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