Angel 5×22: Not Fade Away

[Review by S. van Houten – “Iguana-on-a-stick”]

[Writer: Jeffrey Bell and Joss Whedon | Director: Jeffrey Bell | Aired: 05/19/2004]

This is how an era ends. With a bang, and definitely not a whimper.

For eight years and in twelve seasons of television Joss Whedon and his crew told their stories of vampires, demons, and the people who fought them in a world not unlike our own. And we embraced it all; the mix of supernatural and personal stories, the humour and the drama, the funny speech patterns and the existential themes, and most of all the characters. So many characters, full of flaws and virtues, so many of their triumphs and disasters we witnessed over the years. And now, with this episode, we come to the end of the second and last series in this world of Whedon’s creation.

And what an end it is. There are hair-raising and nail-biting fights, twists and turns to shock the most jaded of viewers, heart-warming moments of affirmation and tragic deaths, all in just 43 minutes. Crucially, though, this is a finale that remembers it is all about its characters. Never does mass action or spectacle take the focus away from that, never does the plot forget it stands in service to the characters rather than the other way around. Each and every one of them gets at least one moment to shine, from Angel and Wesley to even Lindsey and Harmony. This is a finale that remembers where it comes from, and lets us say goodbye to all these people in a manner befitting them, though often in a way ranging from grim to sad, bitter-sweet to heartbreaking.

A decided lack of adjectives with positive connotations, there. Whatever its virtues, “Not Fade Away” is not a happy episode. In truth, Angel was never a happy series, and although Season 5 was a lot lighter in tone than most of the previous ones, it still had many dark and troubling stories to tell. The series finale is a return to noir-form, with desperate, flawed heroes performing amazing deeds, but ultimately proving helpless in the faces of the immensity of the world opposing them.

If we take a step back and examine the episode on a more technical level, we find that “Not Fade Away” is actually conventionally structured in three acts. The first act isn’t even all that remarkable, and I suspect few viewers will remember much of it by the time the credits roll. It’s more set-up in the vein of “Power Play” [5×21]: The Fang Gang still doesn’t quite trust Angel, with Lorne in particular having doubts. The Circle doesn’t trust Angel either and makes him sign away his Shanshu to prove his bona fides. Illyria has been hurt and needs patching up. Angel invites Lindsey to join his assault on the Circle and Harmony invites herself. There are some good scenes here, but it’s not the stuff great finales are made of.

The second act is where the game is suddenly changed on us: Angel tells his crew to take the day off and do what matters most to them, instead of planning their attack. Good tactics? Probably not, though I understand why Angel wants to give his team this one last gift. Good television? Without a single doubt. It’s a stroke of brilliance to make room in the finale for all these small character-centric vignettes. By the time the action starts and all hell breaks loose, we’ve really been reminded of who these people are and why we love them.

And then there is the third act. Angel’s audacious, desperate plan gets put into action, and it is everything it promised to be. The characters reunite in Spike’s apartment and set out on their respective missions of murder. There has been little in the way of planning, not much set-up at all. But of course, that’s the benefit of a suicide strike. Neither us viewers nor the characters need to know much other than who is to be fought and where. It’s hard to stop people with so little to lose. There are no grand speeches, nor anything resembling the kind of heroic power-walk this show is so fond of. You see it even in the darkness and monochrome palette colouring the second half; whatever stylistic changes happened in season five, here we are firmly back in the world of noir.

Yet for all its violence, the third act is almost as focussed on the characters as the second was. The only big fight-scene is between Angel and Hamilton. For the rest, we see the start of hostilities, a glimpse or two of fighting, and the aftermath. It is more than enough to convey a sense of frenetic action and widespread chaos, but in the end “Not Fade Away” spends these precious last few minutes bringing the stories of its characters to a close. For this last review, I shall take the same approach, and examine each character in turn.

Harmony would win my award for “character least deserving of being a series-regular.” She never grows beyond two dimensions, and in many ways her story in Season 5 retreads “Disharmony” [2×17], her first episode on the show. Both times, Harmony tries to fit in with the good guys despite being a vampire, and ends up betraying them because something shinier comes along and/or the good guys are mean to her. However, even she gets a good send-off in this finale. She doesn’t gain any last-minute depth, but then Harmony has always been comic relief. Here she is in fine fettle, and manages to provide some great lines and some much-needed laughs while still being an integral part of the plot. I’ll never stop being amused at Angel firing her in the middle of his battle with Hamilton while bickering over references and betrayals, and was sorely tempted to quote the whole thing. So long, Harmony. You were funny till the end.

Lorne is another character who has not really been justifying his regular-status this season, but in a few short scenes, “Not Fade Away” goes a long way towards remedying that. It is saying something that Lorne’s exit affects me almost as much as Wesley’s.

These last few episodes it’s become clear that Lorne has become disaffected with his role on Angel’s team. We hear his disillusionment in the sad, jazzy tunes of the song he sings for his last day: “If I ruled the world/Every day would be the first day of spring.” But he doesn’t rule this world. Lorne left his barbaric home to find a place where art and beauty were valued over bloodshed and skill at arms. Instead, he has found himself in the company of warriors all over again, and slowly lost his sense of purpose along with his sense of self. He’s finally had enough; he’s leaving, but he is too loyal to walk away before the fight. And so he does this “one last thing” for Angel, although it may well be the final straw that breaks his spirit.

Lindsey, meanwhile, has been adrift since we first got to know him all the way back in Season 1. (He is the only character besides Angel to feature in both the pilot and the finale.) Though he seemed to lead a charmed life as Wolfram & Hart’s golden boy, he never really knew what he wanted or how he wanted it and unhappily drifted from temptation to rebellion and back. If he sometimes seemed a bit out of place or shoehorned in Season 5’s plot, this much at least hadn’t changed in his latest incarnation. Even when he was defying the Senior Partners or trying to manipulate Spike it didn’t seem really clear why he was doing the things he did. Perhaps the only real constant in his appearances over the years was his ongoing obsession with Angel. (This episode once again plays with the notion that this obsession is at least partially sexual or of the love-hate variety, rather than purely antagonistic.) Given all this, it isn’t too shocking that he’s willing to turn on a dime once more and throw his lot in with Angel for the final battle. Grand gestures and blazes of glory suit Lindsey just as well as they do Angel, and self-preservation concerns him just as little.

His death, on the other hand, is definitely the biggest shock the finale has to offer. Wesley’s end I saw coming, though I tried to deny it. This, I did not. How poetic it is for Lindsey to die at Lorne’s hand, without any drama or build-up or bigger meaning, sputtering about the injustice of being treated as insignificant. Some people hate this scene, deem it out of character for Lorne or Angel or doing Lindsey’s character a disservice, though I don’t agree. Some will say Angel and Lorne were justified in their actions, others will vehemently condemn them. Personally, I don’t think it matters whether or not the world is better off without Lindsey. Backstabbing and murdering an ally in this fashion, however temporary an ally he was, is a betrayal unworthy of the kind of hero Angel once claimed to be.

But then, it’s been a long time since Angel actually was that hero, and he’s proven time and again how willing he is to use others as pawns in his games. Drogyn can testify. Angel is expecting to die, and he’s cleaning up loose ends so that his son may live in a slightly better world, and does not care about the morality of it all. And Lorne? Lorne has already lost himself, and Angel does not seem to care either. It’s an amazing scene. Painful, but amazing. Farewell, Lorne and Lindsey. Your exits were more memorable than your tenure, but you were part of what made this show great.

Spike is in a funny position for a main character in the series finale, in that his story arc is pretty much done at this point. At the start of this season, the sheer number of episodes dedicated to him threatened to distract from the rest of the cast, but he gets relatively little screentime now. This seems fitting to me, since he is not, after all, primarily an Angel character. His scenes at the bar are still relevant, though. It’s funny to see him engage a rough crowd with his poem for Cecily, and it’s a wonderful callback to “Fool for Love” for the fans, but it also says a lot about him that his choice for his last day on earth is to make peace with the human existence, with being that bloody awful poet he loathed so much that he embraced vampirism to escape it.

Spike’s progression this season has been all about acceptance. In “Just Rewards” [5×02] he accepted his incorporeal state so he could save the innocent. In “Hell Bound” [5×04] he accepted he is probably going to be damned to hell and still rejected Pavaine’s method of escaping. In “Destiny” [5×08] he embraced the fight Angel had mostly abandoned. In “Damage” [5×11] he came to realise and accept he still bears some responsibility for the crimes he committed and the damage he caused over his century of unlife, regardless of his current ensouled status. Finally, in “Shells” [5×16] he stopped standing outside the group and formally joined forces with Angel, giving up on his much-prized independence and rebel-status for the greater good.

Although Spike’s exit on Buffy the Vampire Slayer was more spectacular and his return on Angel threatened to take away from that, he really has come quite a long way this season. Considering all this, it’s touching to see him go back to his roots as a poet and confront that century-old fear, and get vindicated for it. He has come full circle, combining the best of his human self’s sensitivity and his vampire persona’s bravery and skill. The fights that come afterwards hardly matter in comparison, nor is it in any way surprising he comes through to stand with Angel in that alley in the end. That’s Spike for you. Farewell. It’s been quite the journey.

The poem’s still terrible, though. Props for confident delivery, but it rhymes “Bulge in it” with “Effulgent.” Come on. His audience must be as drunk has he is.

Gunn’s arc is likewise nearing its end, but his story here is more necessary as a capstone, since Season 5 is the first time he’s had a really strong personal story to sink his teeth in. His scene here also has the best surprise guest-appearance of the episode in the form of Anne. Gunn’s story these past two seasons has been about trying to transcend his roots, only to realise that in doing so he’s lost himself. Since “Shells” [5×16] he’s been trying to find his way back, so it’s great to see him do so through helping Anne and her shelter one more time. Anne herself, meanwhile, is one of the more fascinating side-characters in Whedon’s worlds, and one of the few who, like Angel, appeared on both shows. Here, she gets to voice the other answer to the question “Power Play” asked and demonstrate the alternative to Angel’s suicidal blaze-of-glory strike.

GUNN: ”What if I told you it doesn’t help? What would you do if you found out that none of it matters? That it’s all controlled by forces more powerful and uncaring than we can conceive, and they will never let it get better down here. What would you do?”

ANNE: “I’d get this truck packed before the new stuff gets here. Wanna give me a hand?”

GUNN: “I do.”

Anne’s answer is less expansive than Angel’s statement about kindness back in “Epiphany” [2×16]. It’s more pithy and down-to-earth. This makes sense: Anne has actually been living her philosophy while Angel has always been more comfortable fighting evil regardless of his claims back in Season 2. I suspect she may well have made more of a difference than all of Angel’s back-alley crusading ever did, discounting averted demonic apocalypses and the like. Gunn, looking back at the events of the past few years, probably came to similar conclusions about his own role.

Again, Gunn’s fight against the senator and her hench-vampires isn’t really important. What matters is that we know why he’s standing there, facing down those impossible odds. This season he’s fallen deeper and struggled harder than ever before, but in his final days he’s found his way back home. Farewell, Gunn. You went out in top form.

With Wesley we are getting to the meat of this episode. For the last few seasons, his character-arc has often been the best thing about Angel the series, and this is where his entire journey comes to its tragic conclusion. It seems so inevitable in retrospect, though when first watching I kept holding out hope until the very end. It was not to be, of course. That funny, foppish man who came to America to be a Watcher and fight the forces of darkness has finally been broken down to the point he can’t build himself up again, and his death comes more as a relief to him than anything.

The writing is on the wall when he spends his final day on earth patching up Illyria, because nothing in his life remains that is meaningful enough for him to seek out. It is another simple, understated, scene in the lead-up to the storm that is to come. And yet, the dialogue and the emotions lying underneath win it an easy place in my top-twenty favourite television moments of all time. It is a scene I can watch again and again and take a new detail away from every time. It’s bitter and sad, funny and heartbreaking. Watch Illyria continue to struggle with her growing humanity, sounding almost hesitant as she tries to understand this human she has come to care about despite herself. Watch Wesley speak more honestly and forthrightly about himself than he ever does with anyone other than her, even as he carefully applies layers of irony and light sarcasm to keep the truths he speaks from being too raw and painful. Denisof’s delivery of the lines alone is worth re-watching this scene for, and the dialogue itself is some of Whedon’s best.

As for foreshadowing Wesley’s impending death: recall, for a moment, the finale of the very first season of Angel.

WESLEY in “To Shanshu in LA” [1×22]: “The fact that his death is prophesied – which isn’t good news – doesn’t concern me nearly as much as the way he took that news.”

CORDELIA: “What? He didn’t scream like a girl as some of us would have? Angel’s cool. “

WESLEY: “Angel’s cut off. Death doesn’t bother him because there’s nothing in life he wants. It’s our desires that make us human.”

WESLEY in “Not Fade Away” [5×22]: “There is no perfect day for me, Illyria. There is no sunset or painting or finely-aged scotch that’s going to sum up my life and make tonight any… There is nothing that I want.”

I don’t really need to add anything to that, do I?

His actual death-scene could almost be an afterthought in comparison. The first time I watched it, it was the tensest moment of the episode, so badly did I want Wesley to survive. But with hindsight, it is clear in that he’s not on top of his game in his confrontation with Vail. His attack is poorly planned and thought out, he doesn’t play to his strengths, he talks when he should fight; whether he’s aware of it or not, he’s effectively committing suicide-by-Black-Thorn. Heart-breaking though it is, his death-scene is more significant to Illyria than to his own character, who is simply giving up. Adieu, Wesley Wyndam-Price. Your story was tragedy at its finest. May you find some measure of peace in death.

Poor Illyria. Compassion isn’t what I expected to feel for this ancient goddess of destruction and dominance when she first appeared, but it quickly became clear that she is a pitiable figure despite her phenomenal power. And yet, she’s also learning and growing at a rapid pace; nowhere more so than in this episode where she learns the meaning of loss and death.

Illyria is the only character who’s story is not at an ending point, the one who would have benefited most from having another season on the show. Still, despite her short tenure, she has already gone through a great many changes and the finale brings her story to a natural halting point. The end of a first chapter rather than the whole thing, but a good stopping point nonetheless. She has lost much of her power and come to rely on the humans she so used to despise. She’s definitely not one of them, nor does she truly understand them, but she has actually come to feel for one of these weak, sorry people.

And so Illyria lies to Wesley, and provides him with the comfort he needs. She eases his passing, despite knowing it’s not her he wants to be held by. It is another one of those golden scenes between Alexis Denisov and Amy Acker, where we can feel Illyria’s confusion as she tentatively tries to feel her way through these unfamiliar human emotions. It is a fascinating reversal of the scene in “A Hole in the World” [5×15] where Fred died in his arms. Unlike Fred’s passing, Wesley’s almost peaceful. In a way, he chose this fate, and now he finally gets to give in, to give up, to accept a beautiful lie instead of the hard truths he always tried to face. Beautiful, until you remember the tearful promises ‘Fred’ makes about how they will soon be together in the afterlife indeed are lies. Whatever remains of Fred’s soul is contained in the shell of Illyria. There will be not even be that much of a happy ending.

But is everything that Illyria says a lie? The face is Fred’s, the words, no doubt, are drawn from Fred’s memories, but some of the emotion behind them must be her own. The distinction is nowhere near as clear-cut as it once was, though. The character we see now is not purely the monstrous God-King of the Primordial, but has taken on some of Fred’s humanity. Of course, it’s still mostly Illyria, so she deals with these weird new emotions through her trade-mark violence. I doubt many of us viewers mind. When Fred’s tear-streaked face morphs into Illyria’s equally bereft mask and she shatters Vail’s head with a single punch, it is the very definition of catharsis.

We will never know where Illyria’s tale would have gone from here, but even in truncated form her story is something to treasure. Goodbye, Illyria. Try to limit the collateral damage, if only for the sake of Wesley’s memory.

And so we come to the protagonist himself. He’s not the highlight of the episode. Angel’s development has been rather uneven and unsatisfying this season. How many times did we visit the theme of “Angel lacks purpose and direction in life” now? It’s hard to fashion a strong resolution for such weak build-up. Nonetheless, “Not Fade Away” succeeds far better than I expected it to and if Angel’s parts are eclipsed it’s only because the rest of the episode is even better.

It accomplishes this through the character of Connor, surprising though that may seem for those who loathed him in Season 4. Of course, “Origin” [5×18] already demonstrated that this really is a new and improved version of the boy. It’s amazing how well his re-interpreted character works, while retaining enough of his previous incarnation so as not to be a completely different person.

His presence also does wonders for Angel’s character. After all, the entire reason the Wolfram & Hart deal happened in the first place was to save Connor’s life. So what else would Angel do for his final day, but have a cup of coffee with his son? Juxtaposed against the events of “Home” [4×22], it lends his arc this season at least the appearance of having some substance.

It’s quite touching to see Angel and Connor interact so amiably, bantering about girlfriends and penmanship. More importantly, we get to see Connor spell out he’s no longer affected by the memory wipe and forgive Angel for what he did. Later, by showing up for the battle with Hamilton, he’ll demonstrate he’s not just saying that but is willing to put it to action. I know there are some fans who wanted a happy ending to the series and were disappointed that nobody got rewarded with the Shanshu prophecy, but I suspect that if you could ask Angel himself, he’d tell you that being forgiven by a happy, well-adjusted Connor means ten times as much to him as any supernatural redemption.

Of course, on a meta-story level all this pretty much gives Angel a free pass for his highly questionable decision to mind-wipe Connor and all his friends back in Season 4. I don’t exactly appreciate that, but it’s a fault of Season 5 as a whole rather than the finale. Likewise, Angel hasn’t exactly been likeable or moral as of late; using his friends for his suicide mission, assassinating Lindsey, alienating Lorne, killing Drogyn… I can see people begrudging him getting any kind of closure. But this is not the time to address these issues. For the finale to work it’s more important to give its protagonist a satisfying resolution to his story, and Connor’s visit accomplishes that.

Angel’s fight with Hamilton is the centrepiece of the third act, unlike the other battle-scenes which are codas or window-dressing for more character-driven moments. This befits the leader of the team, initiator of the plan and protagonist of the story fighting the personification of Wolfram & Hart. Hamilton isn’t a very deep character, but he perfectly represents everything the evil law-firm stands for; from his dress sense and his eloquence to the sense of inhuman, emotionless menace he exudes. He no doubt was introduced for this very purpose, and indeed he is a great antagonist for the last big fight of the series.

It’s a good thing he’s such a good antagonist, since this is the longest fight we’ve had since “Destiny” [5×08], full of twists, taunts and reversals. The fight is actually one of the more light-hearted parts of the finale, but that’s a good thing. There’s plenty of heavy and heartbreaking stuff, so we can use some snappy one-liners. And there are plenty of great ones— they’re not so much taunts, as Hamilton seeming genuinely confused as to why Angel thinks he can win this fight and why he’s even trying. He also demonstrates his extensive knowledge of W&H’s files by recapping Angel’s entire past and taunting him with all his failures, which is a nice touch for the final moments of the show.

On the funny side, we have that whole scene with Harmony right in the middle. We get to see Angel getting thrown through a bunch of windows and pillars again. We get to see Connor saving his father. Finally, Angel vamps out one last time and uses the power of Hamilton’s blood against him to finally gain the upper hand. What better or more satisfying way could there be to end the last fight in a series about a vampire with a soul? What thematically more appropriate way could there be to end a season that was about Angel trying to use Wolfram & Hart’s own power against them?

But then it’s all over. The fighting is done, the bodies are counted, and those of our heroes who still live meet up in that dank, rainy alley behind the Hyperion, to exchange a last few quips and meet the coming storm.

Perhaps they all die there, in that alley. Perhaps this story is a tragedy where the hero’s stubborn pride dooms him and all his friends. Or perhaps Angel kills that dragon, and they pull off some dramatic last-minute turnabout to make their heroic escape and put the lie to all the predictions of their doom. It wouldn’t be the first time, though never in the face of odds quite as bad as these. Or perhaps they fight, bleed and die, but one or two stubborn survivors manage to crawl away after the dust settles. We’ll never know. The episode ends with this question deliberately left unanswered.

There are many viewers who were upset with this choice, who decried the lack of a clear-cut resolution to the series and felt betrayed by not knowing the ultimate fates of their favourite characters. It’s a reaction I understand, although I do not share it.

Then there are those who call this ending a cop-out, a failure of storytelling or just a poor way to end this series. Here, I very strongly disagree. Angel ended on a note perfectly fitting its film-noir style and its pervading themes of purpose, struggle, and redemption: Evil can never fully be defeated, past sins can never be redeemed by current heroic deeds, the universe is uncaring and devoid of transcendent meaning and will not reward you for your virtue, and the proper response to this is to simply deal with the problems in front of you and help those you can help each and every day.

Angel made his grand gesture, had his shining moment of defiance against the Senior Partners, but it changed none of these truths of the series. An finale neatly tying up every storyline and providing a clear-cut happy ending for each character would never have fitted a story like this. Instead, Anne gets her truck loaded, and Angel goes to work.

Goodbye, Angel.

Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ On a re-watch, knowing Angel’s intentions makes his statements to/about Lindsey one hell of a lot more chilling.
+ Harmony’s indignation while she’s betraying Angel is probably genuine. She always wanted to belong. If they’d been friendlier to her she might have stuck with them. Of course, Angel needed her to betray them for his plan to work. That probably explains why he gave her that recommendation.
+ Though I’ve avoided mentioning it, Eve is in this episode too. Shockingly, even she gets a poignant exit where Angel leaves her in the collapsing W&H HQ, after coldly informing her Lindsey won’t be coming back. I actually feel sorry for her.
+ Spike exchanging a look with the baby as if asking its permission before doing battle with the Fell Brethren.
+ Lindsey’s swordfight looks great.

– Just how did Gunn get away from all those vampires surrounding him in the Senator’s office? It stretches credibility a bit, although he did get heavily injured off-screen.



62 thoughts on “Angel 5×22: Not Fade Away”

    1. How come the format has changed? What happened to the grading system? Where can i find the links to each of the seasons?


      1. The format has changed because CT has been moved to public server, which doesn’t maintain the grading system. But you can find the links to each season at the top of each review page, in the right-hand “Tags” column.


  1. [Note: Jeremy G. posted this comment on January 11, 2014.]

    I’ve heard people say that sometimes a movie (or episode, in this case) is so good that the review pretty much writes itself. This is not the case here. You took an already great episode and did it even more justice than I could have expected. Hats off.

    Nothing really to add here, except now I really want to go rewatch this episode. And probably the other 109 before it.

    Also, I will definitely be keeping this character-by-character template in mind when I eventually get around to reviewing “Tomorrow”. (Here referring to the awesome West Wing series finale, and not the lousy Angel Season Three finale.)


  2. [Note: WCRobinson posted this comment on January 11, 2014.]

    Right, read the review now, and I can’t really think of anything you didn’t cover both enthusiastically and precisely. Well done, Iguana!

    Can’t wait for the season reviews to start getting planned. 🙂


  3. [Note: alfridito017 posted this comment on January 11, 2014.]

    Good review. To bad Angel was canceled though. I wish it could have gone on longer. Although, this seems fitting for a series finale of Angel. Spending the day for those they care about, fighting the evil guys, then their fates unanswered at the end. Good bye Angel.


  4. [Note: Kyle posted this comment on January 11, 2014.]

    Wow! A spectacular review! One of the best on the site! 🙂 And I am so happy you gave it a P score! 🙂 Nice job!


  5. [Note: FaithFanatic posted this comment on January 12, 2014.]

    Great review, and the episode was definitely worthy of the A+ score. Possibly my favourite Angel episode along with Reprise and Are You Now?


  6. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on January 12, 2014.]

    Amazing review. I´ll keep this review in mind once I get to this episode again.
    Really great job and you covered all that needed to be addressed.


  7. [Note: StakeAndCheese posted this comment on January 12, 2014.]

    Awesome, awesome review, Iguana.

    That said, I disagree about NFA giving Angel a pass for the mind wipe. Instead, I view the entire episode as showing the price of Connor’s happiness: The lives of Angel’s friends. I agree that Angel thinks the sacrifice is worth it, though, because Angel isn’t a good person.


  8. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on January 12, 2014.]

    Thanks, people! High praise, especially when coming from you, Jer.

    Stake: That’s a very interesting way of viewing the events of NFA, and I can certainly see where you’re coming from. The events here indeed are a direct result of Angel’s decision in “Home,” both in the big picture (he wouldn’t have been in any position to infiltrate the Black Thorn if he hadn’t taken the offer) and on a more individual level. (Fred would probably still live, neither Gunn nor Wesley would be in such a self-sacrificial/destructive mindset)

    But I’d say it only reinforces my point, since it means Angel is getting away with it. He’s the only one who comes out ahead, who gets everything he wants.


  9. [Note: Stake posted this comment on January 12, 2014.]

    Yeah, I agree that Angel “wins” in NFA, but the show is offering him satisfaction, not absolution.


  10. [Note: Ondřej posted this comment on May 19, 2014.]

    Fantastic review, you really do understand what makes Angel such a good show. I must watch the whole series again, when I have time for it…

    Did you read any comics? I tried couple of issues, but it didn’t feel right. So for me, the story ends with Not Fade Away.


  11. [Note: Robyn posted this comment on May 19, 2014.]

    I think you have made less of Angel’s decision to kill Lindsey than was actually contained in the episode.

    Angel had not decided to kill Lindsey until near the end of their talk, when Lindsey volunteered to join the team. In retrospect, You can actually see it on Angel’s face, a little over eleven minutes into the episode. Angel asks Lindsey “Why?” would he join the fight. Angel is trying to give Lindsey every opportunity to demonstrate that even if he has not redeemed himself yet, that the possibility, however remote, for future redemption is still there.

    When Lindsey answers, “This is gonna be a circus.” You can see Angel with his back turned to perennial Wolfram & Hart wannabe, Lindsey. Only at that moment does Angel make the final decision that Lindsey will never be in the fight for good, only the fight for himself. At that instant he gives up on Lindsey and condemns him.

    It is a wonderful moment that is absolutely invisible on first viewing, but completely obvious if you are looking for it. Lovely writing by Jeffrey Bell and Joss, and beautiful work by David Boreanaz.


  12. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on May 19, 2014.]

    Robyn’s reminded me of something I noticed on my second viewing of the episode but always forget to mention: there’s a definite parallel between the scene where Angel recruits Lindsey and the one in firefly‘s “Ariel” when Mal has Jayne locked in the airlock. In the former, it seems, as Robyn says, that Angel is hoping to get the right response from Lindsey so he won’t have to have him killed; however, rather than offering some proof that he may one day be redeemed, Lindsey instead demonstrates that however often his allegiances may switch and his morals may waver, he is at the end of the day a bad guy.

    The scene in “Ariel” is more ambiguous and there could be many interpretations of Mal’s actions, but personally I think he was prepared for Jayne to die but hopeful that Jayne would give him some reason to let him live. There are others who think it was all a bluff, or that Mal himself was not sure what he was doing, but that’s the argument I prefer. Unlike Lindsey, however, Jayne shows that he is indeed a better man than they thought it to be, probably as a result of the events of “Jaynestown”, the episode prior.

    In the end, for this reason, I find it hard to condemn Angel for his having Lindsey killed. Sacrificing his friends and allies, destroying Lorne by entrusting the assassination to him – these were actions not befitting of the hero Angel has always claimed to be, and for them I may never forgive him (well, to be honest, I’m not sure I ever forgave him for his attempted murder in “Forgiving” or even his actions in Season 2). However I think there is a strong case for why having Lindsey offed was the right course of action. It is not something a true hero would have done, but I can certainly see that someone like Wesley (or, interestingly, Giles) would have done the same thing.

    “Not Fade Away” is awesome. The best episode of Angel, and probably my favourite series finale ever as well.


  13. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on May 30, 2014.]


    I don’t read the comics. I skimmed a few, but it just feels wrong to me. The story of “Angel” isn’t just the writing. It’s the acting and the directing too. The comics, by their very nature, can never capture all of that.

    I’m not so sure. From their conversation:

    ANGEL: We tear up this firm, someone’s going to have to step in. I know that’s what you want. Now, I’m a lot more comfortable with the thought of you in that position than anyone else.
    LINDSEY: The devil you know.
    ANGEL: That’d be you.

    That’s his initial offer. And it’s got to be a lie. Angel could never have wanted Lindsey to actually end up in power.

    Still, I do agree that Angel was giving Lindsey one last chance here. Perhaps if Lindsey had turned down this offer Angel would not have gone through with the assassination plan. The odds were against it, though.


    An interesting parallel. Something I’ll consider if I ever watch that episode of Firefly again.


  14. [Note: Louisa posted this comment on July 31, 2014.]

    Good review. Makes me want to watch this episode again tonight. I was sorry about the death of Wesley and shocked that Angel thought Lorne killing Lindsey was worth this sacrifice of a chunk of their last day and that Lorne did it. Maybe when I binge watch the series again, I’ll understand. BUT, my absolute favorite thing was Spike’s poetry reading. It wrapped Angel and BtVS up with a bow. Genius.


  15. [Note: B posted this comment on November 28, 2014.]

    Angel ended perfectly. It honored it’s characters and what came before it. Buffy didn’t. She made a big deal about how wrong it was that the shadow men infused the first slayer with the essence of the demon and then turns around and does the same thing to thousands of girls. She is no longer just mere episodes later no better than the men she condemned for doing exactly the same thing she does. I think she should have just accepted their offer and gained the power she needed and died in the finale killing the first and reversing the rift her resurrection made in the slayer line leaving Faith in charge for the first time in her life with Faiths first mission being killing her after the battle if she lives and Willow using magic to channel the sun with the spell she was working on with Tara. It could basically be the same ending just moving the story forward without making Buffy a hypocrite.


  16. [Note: Noah posted this comment on November 29, 2014.]

    I completely disagree with a large amount of that. I think both shows ended well, even if “Not Fade Away makes me squirm.

    Angel is the hypocrite – what happened to “the smallest act of kindness is the greatest thing in the world”? It’s in character for him to slide back from that, but it’s still disappointing and it still makes him a problematic character from a philosophical perspective. His “go out in a blaze of glory” ending is reckless, and the things he does to accomplish it are blatantly wrong. “You’re not part of the solution”? That’s not a heroic act.

    Buffy, on the other hand, went out as a hero in a deeper sense of the word than “someone who saves people”. Her sharing of the slayer power doesn’t make her anything close to the Shadow Men: they condemned one girl to fight their battle alone, becoming ever more like what she fights, whereas Buffy activated the potential in the souls of women all over the world – who can now choose for themselves whether to follow their destiny, whether to fight alone or together etc.. The Shadow Men exercised power over a woman, Buffy empowered women. They’re very different acts.


  17. [Note: Zach posted this comment on November 29, 2014.]

    I never really got the Buffy hypocrite part…I mean I understand it on a surface level, but it just doesn’t really make any sense that she is anything like the shadow men.

    The shadow men forced a destiny on a line of women.

    Buffy gave a lot of potential slayers the power to take on said destiny if need be. The single slayer was kept in line and commanded by the watchers council, obviously the other slayer activated don’t have any forceful driving force…

    So it’s not even really close to being the same thing, basically she gave a bunch of girls strength, which is…well, a positive thing generally, and if they want too help her than fine, but I think the point is that they have the choice of if they want to help out the slayer-line or not.


  18. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on November 29, 2014.]

    I don’t have anything insightful to add, but I think I should make mention of the fact that I agree with Zach given that it doesn’t happen often ;). I agree with Noah that Angel is much more of a hypocrite, although unlike him I think this cynicism and ambiguity actually enhances “Not Fade Away” rather than detracting from it.


  19. [Note: Zach posted this comment on November 30, 2014.]

    Success! 🙂

    Agree with enhancing NFA

    That being said, I’m not sure if it’s directly conflicting necessarily.

    I think the acknowledgement that doing good, even in a small moment, is everything, is not necessarily antithetical to doing something non-heroic/bad for the greater good. Unless you guys are thinking of something else.


  20. [Note: StakeAndCheese posted this comment on November 30, 2014.]

    I’m with Zach and FV. One of the very best parts of AtS is that Angel himself isn’t a good person.

    He tries to do the right thing and help people, but that’s different from -being good-.


  21. [Note: Noah posted this comment on November 30, 2014.]

    He and Iguana convinced me of that a while back. I said it makes me squirm to see him act like that under the pretense of nobility, I didn’t say I thought it detracted from the episode (anymore). It’s a great episode, but not my favorite of the series.

    I think the acknowledgement that doing good, even in a small moment, is everything, is not necessarily antithetical to doing something non-heroic/bad for the greater good. Unless you guys are thinking of something else.

    Hmm. The core of Angel’s “Epiphany” was that, in the world that Holland Manners showed him, in which absolutely nothing that we do matters since it is part of the essential nature of humanity to be corrupt, in which there is no god (“God doesn’t want you”, as Darla put it), and in which there is no inherent meaning in the world itself, there is still meaning, the meaning that we make for ourselves.

    So doing good, even if that good doesn’t accomplish anything in the long run, is still worthwhile, in fact, is the only worthwhile thing, because it it means something in the moment in which it’s done. It’s still the right thing to do to help someone in need, and the fact that it doesn’t stop evil doesn’t take away from that. From this point of view, attempting to hurt “Evil Inc.” as badly as you can, no matter what the consequences for innocent people who might be caught in the fray, no matter what evil things you have to do to accomplish it, is not only morally repugnant, but futile. Angel has already been shown multiple times that a heroic gesture against evil simply won’t succeed.

    Now, that being said, there is a moment in “Reprise” that makes me question everything that I just said. When Angel drops the glove and stumbles out of the elevator, Holland, just for a second, looks down at the glove and smiles, as if he’s got what he wanted. It’s possible that his entire speech was for the purpose of preventing Angel from attacking the Senior Partners because he might have been successful. In that case, what he does in “Not Fade Away” is perhaps more palatable (I won’t go so far as to say “right”), since it actually has a chance of succeeding.

    Still, the point stand that his actions here are antithetical to his previous beliefs. The famous quote is a statement of means over ends, and doing evil for the greater good is ends over means. Any way you slice it, that’s an antithesis.


  22. [Note: StakeAndCheese posted this comment on November 30, 2014.]

    You’re exactly right. Angel’s “epiphany” was that there is no “greater good.” The ends can never justify the means, because “ends” don’t truly exist. The only thing that matters is the means. His actions in NFA directly refute the lessons he learned in S2.

    But that contrast “Epiphany” is a major part of what makes NFA work so well. Angel hasn’t forgotten S2. He’s just spent the last three years being ground down and stripped of everything he cares about, and every principle he ever claimed to hold.

    Not Fade Away is Angel (and Wesley, and Gunn) giving up, because they don’t want to fight anymore. They’d rather die than keep suffering in the name of the mission, but their pride demands that they go out fighting, and trying to make a difference even as they know that they can’t possibly succeed in doing so.

    It’s noir as all hell, which is why I love the episode so damn much.


  23. [Note: Noah posted this comment on November 30, 2014.]

    It’s now my turn to say, You’re exactly right. Iguana does a good job of showing in the review exactly what you’re talking about, especially with Wesley. The throwback to Anne certainly helps to show that the writers remember exactly where they’ve been.

    What bothers me the most isn’t the episodes’s fault, though. It’s that many people, including me on first watch, take the episode to be actually heroic instead of a cynical destruction of the heroic ending. I’ve read several reviews by people less perceptive than Iguana who talk about the inspiring and heroic ending in the alleyway. Nooo…

    I also don’t buy that Spike would buy into Angel’s plan.


  24. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on November 30, 2014.]

    Spike is a character who is defined by doing things. He acts. It’s what makes him so compelling and dynamic. Throughout all of his tenure on this show, and particularly during Fred’s dying and after her death, he has been unable to do anything. The chance to finally act, and in such a fittingly explosive way, is something I fully believe he would grasp with both hands.

    I do agree it’s disturbing how many people interpret Angel’s actions in “Not Fade Away” is heroic, but, as you say, that is not the fault of the episode.


  25. [Note: StakeAndCheese posted this comment on November 30, 2014.]

    I can buy that Spike would get swept up in the plan. The guy’s always been a romantic, and it’s entirely possible that he’s now addicted to going out in a blaze of glory, after getting a taste of it in “Chosen.”

    It’s definitely problematic, though, and something that should have been explored if they had more time.


  26. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on December 3, 2014.]

    Whoa, debate! And I missed it. I need some feature that alerts me if people comment on my reviews.

    Anyway, great conversation, people! I don’t have much to add, except one thing:

    I think Angel’s epiphany in “Epiphany” pretty much went -against- his basic nature. The events with Buffy, Darla, Wolfram & Hart and now Holland Manners had ground him down until all the certainties he had tried to build his life upon had proven to be so many matchsticks trying to resist a hurricane. And then, in that moment of perfect despair, he realised that there is an unalienable value to ordinary human kindness in even the most terrible of worlds, and tried to re-build his life around that glimmer of hope.

    But existentialism was an ill-fitting suit of clothing at best for Angel. Emotionally, he always was someone reaching for that single moment of realising the sublime. (Which is why he was vulnerable to losing his soul with Buffy.) Someone forever looking for that single great deed or transcendent moment that would make everything worthwhile. First, that was Buffy and what she represented. Then it was his own redemption. Then, for a while, it was saving Darla. Later it was Connor. In the end, it was reduced to simple defiance; fighting the invincible and hurting it against the odds.

    In all this, his post-epiphany mindset, of humbly making amends and doing what is right rather than what is glorious, is the anomaly. It was the -right- answer, perhaps. But while Anne could actually do it, Angel merely talked the talk.

    As Freudian is so fond of saying; Angel is a tragic hero, and this is part of his tragedy.


  27. [Note: Noah posted this comment on December 3, 2014.]

    I agree with all of what you say. Most of my qualms were with B’s calling Buffy a hypocrite, and later also with Zach’s interpretation of Angel’s epiphany. I’m convinced that Angel never really followed through on his epiphany, because, you very put it very well, he was someone looking for a transcendent solution to his existential problems. The irony is that, had he followed up on his epiphany, and lived what he arrived at in thought, he would have truly transcended his former nature. He just wasn’t strong enough.


  28. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on December 3, 2014.]

    Yes, exactly.

    Which is why I love Anne’s appearance in the finale so very, very much. She is the best example of a character on the show completely reinventing herself. We see her at the start of her journey, when she too is unsuccessfully trying to find meaning in something outside of herself. Vampires, in her case. Then again in “Anne,” when she’s trying to ignore the things that slither in the dark and live a more ordinary life with a boyfriend. That doesn’t work either. Buffy saves her in both cases.

    And so she takes all that’s happened to her, all the things she’s learned, and turns them to good use. She becomes one of the most moral and admirable characters on either show. When we see her here, in the finale, displaying that calm confidence and strength, we -know- just how hard-earned it was. The lesson means so much more coming from her than it would from anybody else.

    Angel could never evolve like that.


  29. [Note: StakeAndCheese posted this comment on December 3, 2014.]

    And the fact that Angel is incapable of real evolution is a large part of what makes him so damn interesting in his own show. He’s not a good person, but he desperately tries to be, going against everything that comes naturally to him.

    The entire show is basically a struggle between who Angel is and the person he wishes he was.


  30. [Note: Zach posted this comment on December 4, 2014.]

    After reading I have changed my mind, I agree that he is contradictory to his epiphany and that it is in fact an antithesis.

    I tend to forget details about TV shows I haven’t watched in >6 months (poor memory ) 😦

    All that being said, I would disagree with the majority here in that Angel’s acts in Not Fade Away were non-heroic, at least in the strictest sense of the word: A hero or heroine refers to characters who, in the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, display courage and/or the will for self-sacrifice—that is, heroism—for some greater good of humanity.

    I think they certainly were. Angel’s attempts to fight evil, however misguided, were intended to do good, I feel that heroism tends to sway more on the side of intent and objective rather than result, although I am sure there are arguments to suggest the latter. Even with all that said, I feel as though existentialism is the philosophy presented to Angel which he accepts in “Epiphany” I agree he then does not follow through and instead goes forward with and “Ends justify the means” approach, which I guess would be Consequentialism. So while it might not be heroic in the sense of his accepted philosophy earlier on, that’s not too say that under a different scope you couldn’t come to see his final acts as heroic.

    Regardless though, I am also in agreement that it doesn’t really bring NFA down by any means, as that’s part of its beauty. But I think we all agree on that anyways so….


  31. [Note: Great Review posted this comment on February 2, 2015.]

    Buffy’s ending isn’t easily comparable to Angel, so calling 1 character heroic and another not based on completely different circumstances is going to sell Angel short. Comparing her to Angel just seems ridiculous based on the different types of opponents they are fighting, the environments they are fighting in, and the in my opinion far more nuanced morality in Angel versus Buffy.

    For one, Buffy is able to share her power without seemingly losing any of it. How is what Buffy did some major heroic deed? It just means she’s not a raging narcissist to the point of not wanting other people to get major credit. She also gets to relax a bit and live without all the pressure of being the only slayer as a bonus.

    I’m not going to argue that Angel is a saint, but I think the review and a lot of the comments are a bit harder on him than he deserves, especially when they compare him to Buffy.


  32. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on February 2, 2015.]

    It is interesting to compare the two on their moral grounds. This comment made me think that Buffy never really went that dark in terms of what she did in her job. Sure there was that whole depression business in Season 6 and some questionable decisions in Season 7 but it never really seems like she walked any morally ambiguous paths in terms of how she fought the the fight against evil. She never had that moment where she made the metaphorical deal with the devil ala Wesley or even some other TV characters out there, who incidentally created some great episodes with there struggles. So when it comes to her supposed hypocritical act it seems less investment worthy since she hadn’t really done anything to make it seem justified and nobody questioned it. Angel on the other hand, probably due to his demonic nature, was willing to slip into a darker path since at times he saw it as more reasonable than the initial path he was on. We also have to consider that a lot of bad stuff tended to happen whenever he decided to change his way of thinking either with human Darla being taken away from him or Fred dying and also just the general strain of having to go against such a powerful enemy. In many ways this seems a lot more relatable than since it is very human to want to sacrifice your moral integrity to decrease general suffering. I myself didn’t notice the hypocritical nature of Angel’s actions in the end but I think we also have to consider that a good 3 seasons have passed since he said those words and a lot can happen to change your mind.


  33. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on March 1, 2015.]

    Really like Angel’s bit about the dragon. It shows him taking joy in begin able to be that old-fashioned hero he’s been wanting to be for a while.


  34. [Note: naoss posted this comment on March 2, 2015.]

    Currently rewatching the show, i feel that Lindsey seems less connect to his behavior, than Angel’s state of mind a this point and the fact he didn’t sleep with Wesley.

    The more i watch the show, the more it is glaring that Lilah does much more things to the Angel crew than Lindsay, and feels proud of hurting them so much, including gloating when Angel loses Connor in s3. On the other hand, Lindsay rarelly got too far, the worse he did was with Holland & Lilah. He shown remorses and helped Angel a few times, for moral reasons, rather than self-preservation.

    Yet, Angel does’t kill her, or make her die. Angelus tries, but Jasmine does it, and Angel feels bad, or at least pretend to feel bad to comfort Wesley.

    Had Lindsey being romantically involved with one member of the crew, it migh have saved him.


  35. [Note: Parker posted this comment on April 20, 2015.]

    Angel might be a hypocrite for his actions at the end of Season 5, but I think that sometimes desperate, suicidal acts can accomplish a lot. Can change the world.

    In the Buffy/Angel mythology, the Earth used to be a hell dimension populated by pure demons, until they were banished. The folks who performed that banishment no doubt died in the doing, and were the biggest heroes the world has ever known.

    Sure, most of the time last gasp attacks accomplish nothing. But sometimes they change everything.

    Practically speaking, the events of NFA did nothing whatsoever against the Senior Partners directly. However, it seemed to sever quite completely their board of executives here on Earth. And without them, and with the chaos to follow, how much does this set back the SP’s plans? Does this inspire others to fight back as well? Or is W&H back up and running in a few weeks (like in Season 4 where they were fully re-staffed and re-outfitted in a few days after the Beast’s attack)?

    I like to think the gang’s final attack did make a real difference in the world, that it did really shift the balance of good and evil, if even slightly. The war might go on, but this was a battle won.


  36. [Note: StakeAndCheese posted this comment on April 20, 2015.]

    Of course, Angel isn’t actually trying to change the world. He just wants to “show them that they don’t own us.”

    There will always be another Circle of Blackthorn. The Home Office is Earth, after all. Wolfram and Hart is a symptom of a larger sickness, not the cause.

    Angel just wanted to be done, because continuing to fight was too painful. So he committed suicide by Blackthorn in a grand gesture that was almost certainly futile.

    And I dig it, from a storytelling perspective.


  37. [Note: Parker posted this comment on April 23, 2015.]

    I disagree. This apparent suicide attack is very similar to Angel’s actions in Reprise – he’s taking the fight right to the top, if he can. But he learned in Reprise he can’t really touch the Senior Partners, and that attack was based in desperation and despair.

    As contrasted to the events in Not Fade Away, where I think Angel is coming from a position of hope. Firstly, because of Cordelia’s visit and last vision. But even more importantly, because of Connor. He’s seen the healthy and happy Connor, and bonded with him. This is his reward, his Shanshu. Which frees him from his remaining fears and allows him to strike directly at the means the SP use to keep the world suffering.

    Evil can never be totally defeated, but it certainly can get it’s ass kicked.


  38. [Note: Jeremy G. posted this comment on July 6, 2015.]

    Hey, interesting tidbit: This review was linked to in a recent article on

    In “6 TV Spinoff Storylines that Ruined the Originals”, the writer references the final scene in “Not Fade Away”, and provides a link to this very review when discussing the implication of what happened to the characters after the screen cuts to black.

    That’s some nice promotion for this site right there.


  39. [Note: Zarnium posted this comment on July 6, 2015.]

    Oh, wow. I read that article when it came out, but I never clicked any of the links. I just remember thinking that the Buffy/Angel segment was a bit simplistic and off-base.

    Hey, Mike! Out of curiosity, can you tell us if there have been significantly more page views since the article was published?


  40. [Note: Krssven posted this comment on July 9, 2015.]

    I agree that this is a great episode and was a fitting end to the noir-like Angel. Compare the two finales – NFA being superior in many respects – and it highlights the key differences between the two.

    Angel I think is a difficult character to truly define. He is a deeply flawed person but I think this is 100% deliberate. In a strange way, he is an examination of the human condition itself. Angel wants very much to be the hero he envisages in his mind and even achieves that in a lot of instances on his own show. He isn’t however as strongly principled as Buffy, and is actually a lot closer to the likes of Giles or Wesley in terms of his personal morals. Angel is a hero at heart, but is not above doing whatever it takes to strike at evil or end it completely. I like the parallel between Angel and Giles in particular because of Giles’ actions in ‘The Gift’. In that episode, Giles is (without truly saying it) fully prepared to kill Dawn and thus prevent the suffering and death of everything and everyone on Earth. Buffy, who is most definitely a more stereotypical ‘hero’, doesn’t falter in her personal morals, even when that would result in the end of the world (!). Giles then goes even further when he talks to Ben, mentions that Buffy is a hero and that’s why she spared him. But he knows the risk behind such an act of mercy and kills Ben, because that’s what needed to happen. Angel is, like Giles, someone who is willing to do whatever it takes to protect people. In this episode, he has been slowly stripped of his desire to fight by being in the belly of the beast. In Epiphany he learned that evil will always be here, but instead of making him give up, it helps him to make the decision (as mentioned above) that even if W&H/evil can’t be defeated, they can still be handed their asses every now and then. W&H are hurt so badly here that they send LA to hell and pretty much destroy their LA office. The strike against the Black Thorn was successful (in terms of hurting W&H) because the Senior Partners’ temporal power on Earth was projected through those conspirators and the firm. Sure, they can send a boatload of demons against Angel and crew but their Earthly, non-demon power has had its head blown off. Angel gets a validation of his desire to inflict a defeat on the Partners, to show that it CAN be done and the sway of evil in our dimension is far from absolute. So in all I like that even to the end Angel was able to send a powerful message, and his team knew that – though Wesley I believe had given up already because of Fred, and Lorne’s innocence had been gradually eroded. Having him kill Lindsey finally shatters that, but he’d decided to move on way before that.

    In the end, Angel is far more a believable hero for me than Buffy is. Both are flawed characters, but Buffy would leave the worst villain imaginable alive just because it would be ‘wrong’ to kill them once defeated. Angel understands that someone like Lindsey is part of the problem, and that if none of them survive the coming attack, he really will just take over running W&H and make it exactly what it was before. I think he knew Lyndsey had to die in the battle and was testing him as to his true feelings on the firm and the Partners. Lorne’s instructions were probably to just ensure that Lindsey did not survive his battle – Angel probably hoped that he would die in his part of the suicide attack.

    So in a way the ending is both like noir, but is both heroic and anti-heroic. All of the characters in the episode have their darkness but their final stand against the Partners’ forces is a heroic one – they could turn tail and run, guarantee their survival for the campaign to come against those demons, but they choose to stand and fight.

    The continuation ‘After the Fall’ does a good job of continuing the story IMO. Since it is from Joss himself that the Buffy Season 8/9/10 etc and the Angel – After the Fall, Angel & Faith etc comics are canon (like it or not, they are), they’re worth reading. Though I’ve read more of the Buffy comics than the Angel ones, both seem worthy continuations. I have no problem with the writing or characterisation, but some people just don’t like comics and won’t even give a continuation a chance unless it’s on-screen. Again, they are canon, so they don’t die in that alley (well…kinda) but have a lot more strife to contend with in ‘Hell’. It also shows that W&H still have a vested interest in Angel – it’s mentioned that his role in the ‘true’ apocalypse is still unknown and this really concerns the Senior Partners…


  41. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on July 21, 2015.]

    Interesting. And nice to get more traffic.

    Though I think the point that article tries to make is garbled at best, nonsense at worst. And I don’t think this review is particularly relevant to it. I was saying that the ultimate fate of the heroes being unknown is the point, not that it’s implied they all die.

    But eh. Like I said, nice to get more traffic.


  42. [Note: Jack posted this comment on August 6, 2015.]

    I’m sure they’ll be fine. After all, they have Buffy Season 10 at Dark Horse comics and Angel and Spike are fine there.


  43. [Note: Krssven posted this comment on August 12, 2015.]

    Eventually they are. They go through a whole world of pain to fix what was begun in ‘Not Fade Away’, and that’s just LA…


  44. [Note: Grant posted this comment on August 14, 2015.]

    Great review, brilliant site. This is not a nitpick of the episode but in general. I really hate the use of guns by our heroes and that Wesley suddenly has the accuracy of Dirty Harry and begins leaping through the air like he’s part of a John Woo movie. Wesley’s arc is great but his slight action man persona is pathetic.


  45. [Note: SER posted this comment on October 21, 2015.]

    I’d defend Angel’s actions regarding Lindsey. Making him believe they were on the same side and then killing him was basically the same tactic Angel used against the other members of the Black Thorn. Lindsey couldn’t be trusted, and that’s how he’s different from Lilah. Lilah was very much a *consistent* devil you know.

    I do wonder how it would have worked if Lilah had remained during Season 5 as the “undead” liaison to the Senior Partners. To borrow from Lorne, I’d have liked her better than Eve, who never made sense to me. I felt like a major motivation occurred off-screen: Eve “falling in love” with Lindsey and putting her own life in great peril to take down Angel against the Senior Partner’s wishes. I know why *Lindsey* would do this (he hates Angel*), but was Eve’s sole motivation “love” (a very human emotion)? Basically Lindsey would have had no plan if the SPs had made the far more powerful Marcus Hamilton the liaison from the start?

    Lilah — given her relationship with Wesley — would have had more story potential. Oh well.


  46. [Note: Ahel2 posted this comment on October 30, 2015.]

    I’d watched all the Angel episodes apart from Season 5 Episode 21 and 22 for about 5 years (no idea why) and tonight I thought I’d revisit and finish the series. I’m so glad I stumbled across this review – beautifully written, such insightful analysis – stuff I completely love – and it helped me understand exactly what I’ve now said goodbye to. I guess I waited for such a long time precisely because I didn’t want it to end. Man, #dark #nolstalgic #ultimatebittersweetending


  47. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on January 8, 2016.]

    Something I realized that makes this finale stronger than Chosen is in how they handle the deaths. Ultimately they are all not exactly heroic or grand in any particular way but here it feels like they actually matter somewhat and have impact. Sure Larry died a pretty non-caring death in Graduation Day (I didn’t even know he was dead until Smashed) but it’s not like he was he bigger character out there anyway. Anya dies and nobody seems to give a crap at all except for Andrew. Not to mention Freaks and Geeks gal died as well. When Lindsay and Wes die here it not only benefits the story but you feel the weight of their passing.


  48. [Note: Samm posted this comment on January 8, 2016.]

    I actually see quite a few similarities between Chosen and Not Fade Away, but the different type of show they are lead to a much different ending.

    They both are facing an impossibly strong army, one which they should have no chance of defeating. The similarities between The First and The Senior Partners. Caleb and Hamilton both obey there non corporeal masters. So they have the similarities but they are both done so differently.

    Not Fade Away, one of the best finales out there focuses on us at the beginning really getting ready to say goodbye to the characters with them doing what they care most, and handled the emotions and death scenes much better than Chosen. It had a brilliantly done fight scene and ultimately the biggest difference was this wasn’t a heroic attempt, essentially suicide by Black Thorn. And we come to the end, not witnessing the fight and perfectly sums up what the show was about.

    While Chosen i don’t think has the best goodbyes of the characters, as you say i don’t think the deaths were handled as well. But Chosen does what the show Buffy stands for and in the end it is a nice sendoff and a more cheerful ending. But it really reached that resolution by forcing things into action.


  49. [Note: Ben Edlund posted this comment on March 2, 2016.]

    I actually thought their last stand against the partners is pretty heroic, even if Angel’s intentions are far from it.


  50. [Note: Maria posted this comment on August 11, 2016.]

    I just rewatched this episode (and the whole series) for the first time in maybe 10 years and I have to say I find it so depressing. Don’t get me wrong, I do think it’s an amazing finale, but I was not ready for the implications of what it means and how some of those characters turned out.

    When I think about this show, the one quote/moment that comes to mind is the epiphany one. So to see Angel make a 180 (even though we did see it coming) and basically go against everything he stands for in that scene is painful to watch.

    Even more painful is seeing them stripped out of all hope going on that suicide mission, knowing it’s meaningless not because they won’t achieve anything, but because they don’t even believe in the good fight anymore.

    I can’t help but think about how the finale might have been different if it had not been in a corruption/lack of purpose themed season.


  51. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on August 13, 2016.]

    Personally, I don’t find it depressing as such. I find it painful, tragic, but beautiful. But I can certainly see your perspective.

    I can’t help but think about how the finale might have been different if it had not been in a corruption/lack of purpose themed season.

    This is a good point. Though on the other hand… for most of the characters, events from season 3 onwards were something of a downward spiral. Cordelia, seduced by her special status until she was destroyed. Fred already dead through no fault of her own. Gunn, Wesley, Angel himself… their struggles all began well before season 5.

    “Angel” is something of a depressing show, I suppose. It mostly explores the (self)destruction of its characters. But it does so beautifully, and it does have its share of uplifting moments besides.

    I find it hard to imagine “Angel” ever getting a happy ending, no matter what season it came in. I suppose it might have been a slightly more hopeful one than the one we got. But honestly, I wouldn’t trade this one for the world.


  52. [Note: Daniel posted this comment on October 12, 2016.]

    Thank you Iguana and everyone on Critically Touched for writing these reviews! I’ve just finished watching Angel and your reviews help me fill a void I was feeling when it all ended.

    I started watching Angel after finishing Person of Interest. Some people had comment how similar both series were. I’m in love for Amy Acker and I’ve seen David Boreanaz before on Bones. I like vampire shows like The Originals. So why not give it a try? Actually I started with Buffy but gave up, didn’t like it enough. But somehow I KNEW I was going to enjoy watching Angel.

    And I was right! Watched every day, from the very first episode to the last one. Until the very end I didn’t know what other people thought of the quality of the series, what was the hype back then, what were the speculations, the doubts… your reviews helped me to understand better! It felt like I had someone to talk about Angel 🙂 Although I must admit I only found the site on 5×15, those last bit of reviews meant a lot to me.

    Finally, one special thing that will always make me remember Angel. As you may notice, English is not my first language. I live in Brazil and I’ve never traveled abroad, never left the country. But last month I was approved for a scholarship to study on California, and guess in what city? Los Angeles! I hope everything goes okay until then (Jan 2018). It’s only for three weeks and I’m sure I won’t have any chances of seeing any actor, but I’m still happy for it.

    Once again, thank you for writing and for everyone who commented too!


  53. [Note: barney posted this comment on October 22, 2016.]

    they should have ended the show with season 3. season 4 is worstthan the first half of season 5.


  54. [Note: Random posted this comment on January 23, 2017.]

    I find it hard to imagine “Angel” ever getting a happy ending, no matter what season it came in. I suppose it might have been a slightly more hopeful one than the one we got. But honestly, I wouldn’t trade this one for the world.

    Honestly, not to detract from the ambiguity and noir aspects that sets this series apart from BtVS, I’d argue this is a happy ending, at least for the surviving characters. (Obviously, things didn’t go so well for Wesley, and the tragedy of his entire life was summed up quite well.) How often have we seen characters in the Buffyverse overcome incredible odds? It’s almost part of their mission statement by now — taking on enemies and dangers that should destroy them and coming out on top. While the ending certainly leaves the ultimate outcome open to interpretation, nothing in either AtS or BtVS suggests that they’re likely to lose.

    There will always be casualties — Wes, Anya, Gay Larry, and so forth — but the zeitgeist of the Buffyverse is still, at its core, the story of heroes winning, in the end. It may be a deus ex machina like the Scythe or the sword blessed by a knight, or it may be resourcefulness like a metric ton of dynamite or working with the native cows or a clue that lets Our Heroes know where to go and what to do or it could just be the characters being too damned tough to be killed by petty minions (aka the Aragorn Effect), but, for all his attempts to introduce suffering and sorrow and loss into his universe, Joss has always been an optimist about the power of heroes to win the day. If the Scoobies can take out an army of unkillable ubervamps, surely Angel Investigations can beat — from what I could make out — a few orcs, a cave troll or two, and a rather puny-looking dragon.

    We don’t know how it ends, and I’m quite satisfied with that. Ambiguity has its place, even if some storytellers don’t know when to let go of it. But we do know the ethos that led to this moment quite well. We’ve seen this twist before, after all.


  55. [Note: Flamepillar112 posted this comment on March 12, 2017.]

    Is the alley where everyone meets up at the end the same one from the beginning of “City Of”?


  56. Just finished my first rewatches of Buffy and Angel. Hadn’t seen the shows since they aired, and I forgot all but the biggest events. Now it’s over. I’m always sad when a show ends. It’s like never seeing friends again. 😦

    Thanks to Mike for his Buffy reviews and to Ryan and the members of the ACP. Really great reviews that were entertaining and informative. Really learned a lot about both shows. Great work by all involved.

    Agree that what Buffy did and what the Shadow Men did is not the same. Just a silly comparison.


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