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Angel: The Complete Second Season

Oh, those wacky folks at Angel Investigations! The beginning of Season Two of Joss Whedon's Buffy spin-off opens with a red-eyed, horned demon … singing "I Will Survive" in a karaoke bar. It's The Host (Andy Hallett), a smooth-talking, martini-swilling seer who can divine the future by hearing someone sing. The opening episode, "Judgement," finds Angel (David Boreanaz) and company on the trail of a ferocious supernatural beast, and the road leads to Angel singing Barry Manilow's "Mandy" to find some clues and concludes with Angel on horseback, fighting an evil knight on L.A.'s city streets. The rest of the season saw the gang moving into a gorgeous, abandoned hotel — after first disposing of a demon-in-residence; the addition of street-smart vamp killer Charles Gunn (J. August Richards); the return of Angel's old flame Darla (Julie Benz) as part of a plot by Wolfram & Hart; Wesley (Alexis Denisof) taking center stage subbing for a Darla-struck Angel in "Guise Will Be Guise"; and a newly re-vamped Darla re-teaming with the deliciously inane Drusilla (Juliet Landau) for blood-sucking mayhem in "Reunion." Exceptional episodes included "Are You Now or Have You Ever Been" which takes Angel back in time to the 1950s, and "The Thin Dead Line," in which the gang encounter terrifying zombie cops. A new story arc begins with "Belonging," in which Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) gets sucked through a portal into The Host's home world of Pylea and the crew follows, journeying to an alternate dimension in which Cordy's been made a princess and Angel can walk around in the sunlight — and see his reflection in a mirror, leading to one of the funniest exchanges in the entire run of the show, when Angel finally gets a gander in a mirror at his spiky, artfully disheveled hair. (Angel: "This is because of going through the portal, right?" Cordy: "No, it always looks like that." Angel: "Why didn't anybody tell me about this?") The season saw a lot of welcome guest appearances, like Landau and Benz plus James Marsters (Spike), Eliza Dushku (Faith), and Alyson Hanigan (Willow). Unfortunately, it also saw the beginning of a seriously overloaded cast, with the introduction of Gunn, Lorne/The Host, and Fred (Amy Acker), all of whom would become series regulars. But that's a problem for future seasons — Season Two was a surprise in many ways, with imaginative, well-written stories and a lot of character development (most notably an increasingly capable Wesley, originally an ineffectual loser on Buffy and brought in over fans' protests to replace Doyle when actor Glenn Quinn was fired.) Fox's DVD release offers all 22 episodes on six discs. The picture quality is superb, presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) — originally broadcast full-frame, there's occasionally some "dead space" on either side of the frame, but it's really only noticeable in scenes where a lot of detail is crammed into the center of a specific shot. The DD 2.0 audio is every bit as good as the video. Extras include optional director's commentary by Tim Minear on "Are You Now or Have You Ever Been" and Fred Keller on "Over the Rainbow." Minear's track is somewhat more interesting, detailing the structure of the script and a lot of technical goodies, while Keller gives a good overview of the monumental task of shooting a single hour of television; a "Season Two Overview" with interview bites from Minear, Keller, executive producer David Greenwalt and a number of other cast and crew members; entertaining featurettes on stunts, make-up and set design; and an extensive still gallery. DVD-ROM content includes scripts for "Darla" and "Disharmony" and set blueprints. Six-disc folding digipak.
—Dawn Taylor

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