When I wrote the original role model piece years ago Angel was the last one I added on it. In fact the series had just ended. Although originally a character in Buffy, the vampire slayer the series found its own way to go. The main theme of Angel is quite clearly one of redemption. Angel was a vampire killer but was given his soul back and so now feels guilty about his past. He is quite literary battling his inner demon(s). At the time I was going through some things that resonated with this theme and so it is little wonder that I felt a little connected to the character. As such it was what inspired me to write the original piece about the role models I my life as I tried to put myself back together.
It would not be the last time that life knocked me down and like Spider-man I would have to force myself back up and to carry on. Like Duncan MacLeod I would have to explore inside myself and find inner peace with my decisions and the bad things of my past. To carry on trying to be the good guy that I wanted to be led by the morals and the sense of right that I had learned as a kid from He-man and Robin of Sherwood.
But with Angel there was a sense of trying to get out there and do things to make up for my past. To try and make a difference in the world and to the people around me. Spider-man felt a responsibility to go out and help people. He-man too was given his powers to be the hero. Robin Hood felt a sense of justice to fight back. For Angel it was all about trying to make amends by doing the right thing.
This is clear in Buffy where as a character he helps Buffy until that time when completely happy he turns back into his dark identity of Angelus. By the time he comes back to normal he realises he must leave Buffy and Sunnydale behind. Buffy the series is a metaphor for growing up, the demons metaphors for the trials and tribulations of going through teenage life and into adulthood. Here is after season three a bit of a shift in tone for the series as we see Buffy trying to make her way in the world after high school. Angel the series is a lot darker. (well for the most part)
This is now showing us a metaphor for being a grown up and having to live in the world. Angel and his friends may start their investigations agency with the aim to help the lost souls of Los Angles but it’s not long before the reality hits that they need to charge sometimes for their services. The must make a living from what they do. There is no great wealth hidden away for our heroes to concentrate simply on helping people. The closest hero on this list that comes close to being in the same situation as Angel is Peter Parker who is seen always struggling to make ends meet while trying to still help the world as a hero. What we do get with Angel is a show that considers what makes life meaningful in amongst the rigors of everyday life in which we get caught up in. We see this not just with Angel’s actions but also the relationships of those around him.
The series also deals with loss and with making sacrifices. We have Angel initially trying to forget the love of his life and get on with his life, shutting himself away from people, a brooding figure, and it’s interesting to see how the cast grows over the five series as Angel becomes more at peace with who he is. But there is also more lost to come with one of the initial characters dying in the first part of the first season. It is made clear from this moment on that this is a show that is going to deal with darker issues.
And it does this most with season five showing what can happen when you make compromises to get what you want. Even though death has been shown throughout the series the death of Fred is both sudden and shocking. As for the final, it is possibly one of the darkest endings for a show that I have seen. (The only other one I can personally think of is Blake’s 7) It’s an emotional rollercoaster which left me in complete shock. In hind sight I can see it was really the only good way the show could end and it also highlights the whole theme of redemption as Angel and his team make the ultimate sacrifice in order to do the right thing.
The line that sticks in my mind most from the show, and one of the most quoted, is one that I try to live by. “If nothing we do matters then all that matter is what we do”. It is something that resonates with me even more after I studied philosophy. Sometime are actions might not make that much of a difference to the world. Sometimes it may make thing a little better for a while but the actions will soon be overshadowed by the realities of life. But we should still do what we think is right even if such actions are futile. And this is true especially if we are trying to make up for something in our past. This is something that Angel learns when he finds out that there may not be some great destiny of final win to aim for. It’s about little acts of kindness.
As mentioned in the Highlander post there is the point about accepting yourself for who you are good or bad. With Angel there is the message that you can make up for that past by trying to be a better person and do the right thing no matter how dark things are. Angel realises this at last. It’s not about doing it for any reward or redemption but simply to help. It is important to try and make that difference, to stand up and be counted. And maybe then when we finally face death we can do it with courage, safe in our knowledge that we lived the best life we could and tried to make a difference and what more could someone want in that final moment.