View Full Version : What if Angel hadn't been brought back?

05-01-19, 10:25 PM
We know from the season 2 commentaries and featurettes that Joss Whedon only got the idea to center a spinoff around Angel when he saw David Boreanaz’s performance in “I Only Have Eyes for You.” After that, Whedon planned the remainder of Angel’s time on BtVS as a setup for the series Angel. The resulting storylines are unquestionably canon, but I still wonder about what might have been. I can think of a few possibilities, some overlapping:

1. Buffy would have killed Angel at the end of S2, rather than sending him to Acathla’s dimension. He would never have returned, and his story would have ended. IMO, this one makes most sense, in part because the fact that Buffy attacks a bunch of vampires with no good vamp-killing weapons makes so little. We would have lost out on some quality Bangel drama in season 3 (I’m thinking of the dance in “The Prom” and I’M NOT CRYING YOU’RE CRYING OK LBR WE’RE ALL CRYING), but I think it would have worked out better, in the long run, both for Buffy and for Buffy (Angel, the series, is a different discussion). Buffy would have obtained closure rather than being tormented by the knowledge that her lover was still suffering, her future relationships could have proceeded without the shadow of an ongoing interest in him (how would Bander have played out? Briley? Spuffy?), and AtS wouldn’t have retconned plot points and character development from BtVS, such as the nature of inter-dimensional travel and the ways in which Angel’s post-ensoulment self-loathing manifested.

2. Willow’s spell would have worked in time, allowing Buffy and Angel to jointly stop Acathla’s escape. It’s plausible enough in-universe, although I doubt that Whedon would have let the audience escape with this little trauma– and he’d probably be right not to. Season 2 was all about building to something big, and “nothing really happens” would’ve been an anticlimactic end.

However, I can think of one way it might’ve worked: If Angel had sacrificed himself by going to Acathla’s dimension.On BtVS (much less so on AtS), inter-dimensional travel is a rare and dangerous procedure (one that strains even late-season Willow’s abilities, in “Get It Done”). In the early seasons, it appears almost impossible for an ordinary human to effect. So Buffy’s drive to rescue him, combined with Willow’s slippery-slope use of magic and Giles’s conflict of interests, could have made for great drama.

3. Angel’s soul would have been restored, a solution would have been found to the ensoulment-curse’s happiness clause, and he and Buffy would have remained together. The “Graduation Day” two-parter is largely about putting the past behind you, symbolized by the destruction of Sunnydale High, the series’ central location up to this point; the killing of an Old One, a kind of demon that previously required a volcano to destroy, with modern technology; and, in the canon version of the show, the departure of Buffy’s first lover. But destruction can lead to renewal, so putting the most obvious punishment for Angelus’s misdeeds behind Angel and Buffy would have fit that theme. Thus, I think that his “cure” for the curse would have probably happened around the end of season 3.

4. Angel would have been re-ensouled, but died from something else. Perhaps Faith’s attack on him in “Graduation Day, Part 1″ would have taken a different form. I don’t find this possibility very likely or appealing; like his simply being re-ensouled and restored to the team, it would’ve lacked the show’s signature dramatic punch.

5. Angel would have been re-ensouled and left to wander the world, Oz-style, searching for a cure, and occasionally checking back in to help with major battles. It isn’t my favorite option, because, well, it’s hard to feel shippy when the lovers are usually on different continents, but long-distance relationships are a very real occurrence, and I think BtVS’s writing staff had the chops to pull it off. I certainly prefer it to what happens in canon, where he sits around brooding over Buffy while making very little effort to actually fix their problems. It would’ve painted a far more flattering picture of Angel, and, if he finally resolved the issue in season 7, given Buffy a less-ambiguously happy ending. Moreover, it would still have allowed for the existence of AtS, albeit in a very different form. According to various commentaries, Whedon and David Greenwalt wanted to make AtS “not the Buffy show,” and an AtS based on the above premise would have been, to some extent, about Buffy.

Of course, it’s possible that I’m not thinking of some plausible options; and, if you like AtS more than I do, you may not care about other options. What do you think should’ve happened to Angel at the end of season 2?

06-01-19, 12:27 AM
I’m really undecided about this. It’s a question I’ve often asked myself and I can never make up my mind.

On the one hand, I do think it would have been better for the Bangel storyline if Angel hadn’t come back. There are definitely things to like about Bangel in Season 3 but IMO it’s also clear that the writer’s spend a lot of Season 3 simply spinning their wheels and treading water as far as Bangel is concerned. They knew from the beginning of the season that Bangel had to break up so much of Season 3 is simply buying time until the inevitable happened. It leads to a lot of wishy-washy “are they together or not together?” type storylines that in the long run hurt the ship, IMO. Had Bangel ended with Buffy having to send Angel to hell then that would have been a terribly sad ending but arguably a much stronger ending than the long drawn-out one we actually got.

Early Season 3 also has a lot of those very harlequin-esque Bangel scenes (like the Tai Chi) that I’m really not fond of. I don’t mind when they’re undercutting it like in their scene in Helpless (“That’s beautiful. Or taken literally incredibly gross”) but when it’s played straight I find it really cringe worthy. I prefer the tone they struck in Season 2 which wasn’t quite so melodramatic and cheesy. However, that said, there’s things about Bangel/Angel in Season 3 that I really like and would be sad to lose if given the choice. We never would have got the Prom or the bite scene in Graduation Day, or Amends which I personally love. I also feel that Angel starts to come into his own more in Season 3 and is shown to be a more productive and formidable evil-fighter in his own right which makes him a stronger character than he would’ve been if his story had ended in Season 2. Furthermore, whilst they are depicted as being too cheesy in Early Season 3 I do like the tone of their relationship in the latter half of Season 3 where they find their groove and it’s more playful and fun (“Sorry honey!” “Are we in a rut?” etc) and they bounce off each other in a more relatable and grounded way.

I agree that in many ways Buffy would have been better off if Angel had never come back. If she'd been allowed to make her peace at the end of Faith, Hope & Trick without Angel coming back into her life then I think she would've been able to move on. And I think the end of that episode definitely suggests that Buffy was at the point of making peace with having to had sacrifice Angel and that it wasn't going to weigh on her the way it had done in Anne and Dead Man's Party. A part of me has also always resented how with both Bangel and Spuffy in Season 3/7 retrospectively, Buffy feels obligated to nurture and protect men who have hurt her out of guilt for them getting their souls back, and is forced to suck it up and just deal internally with the pain they caused her. So it would have been better off for her character if Angel probably hadn't come back but I also find entertainment in drama and pain so it's not a huge motivator for me, honestly. I mean, what? Were we going to settle for Scott Hope all season? Meh. Faith, on the other hand... :p

It’s tricky.

I tend to have like AtS less and less these days. I’m sure it’s just a phase but whenever I’ve tried to rewatch episodes I find myself bored and underwhelmed. Season 4 was always a big favourite of mine but I went to rewatch a couple of episodes lately it just wasn’t as good as I remember. Still, I wouldn’t go as far to say that I don’t think it would be a significant loss if Angel’s story had ended in Becoming and we didn’t get 5 seasons of AtS. Angel is most definitely enriched as a character on his own show and despite my problems with AtS (mainly the characters – many of whom I either dislike or am uninterested in) I can’t imagine losing all the wonderful flashback scenes or the fleshing out of Darla’s character etc. So, I don’t think I would say Angel should’ve stayed dead. I guess a compromise would be to have Angel remain dead throughout Buffy Season 3 and have his spinoff start with Angel returning from Hell.

That in itself has its complications. The major one being that AtS would constantly have this mystery looming over it’s head of “when is Buffy going to find out that Angel is still alive?” If they don’t address it then it’s a distraction that fandom wouldn’t get over for as long as Angel lived in secrecy from Buffy. It would overshadow everything (including any possible future romantic relationships) and would harm the series in the long run, IMO. So they’d need to address it with a crossover episode pretty early on into AtS’ run. They’d also need to come up with a reasonable for excuse why the characters would choose to part ways but I think that’s pretty easily done. I’d find it very believable if Buffy crossed over to AtS after finding out Angel was alive but they both decided it was better if they remain apart after what happened with the curse in Season 2. It’s what they dragged out throughout early Season 3 anyway and the reason they ended up breaking up so it’d actually probably be a much tighter story.

And if we were completely re-writing the trajectory of Angel’s story then I would use this as an opportunity to rewrite the premise of AtS. After re-watching Amends over Christmas and pondering how it serves as almost a pilot episode for AtS I was left wishing that AtS had struck more of a similar tone and style to Amends then the noir detective tone that we eventually got. Firstly, I’ve never been interested in detective shows, or noir, and I was never enamoured with LA as a setting for AtS in the first place. I’ve always felt that all 3 were a really odd fit for Angel’s character. And since the series pretty much abandons them anyway as it progresses I wish we just didn’t go there at all. I’d have preferred if they’d delved more into Angel’s past straight away with more of an emphasis placed on flashbacks and Angel’s history and for AtS to have a more gothic Anne Rice kind of feel but with an injection of Buffyverse humor and tone.

06-01-19, 03:07 AM
I doubt I'll surprise anyone that knows my posting well, but nothing of much value would have been lost. I don't mind the character, he had some good moments, but if they had never spun him off and he had never recurred I don't think the world would be a worse and more terrible place for want of "Angel". There were easily ways to introduce... most if not all the major characters from that show into "Buffy" directly if they'd wished, eventually.

And in terms of story, I can still not think of a single world-in-peril situation for which Angel was ostensibly the world's last and only chance after he came back... that he wasn't actually himself part of the cause of... other than "Happy Anniversary" which, for as terrible an episode as it is, I can't imagine I wouldn't rather just pretend it didn't exist for this purpose.

In terms of providing Buffy a Season 3 and/or beyond romantic arc, there's Faith like mogs said but I can also think of *AHUM* another direction they could have eventually gone with that as well.

06-01-19, 06:09 AM
All said regarding writers, producers, actors, directors, viewers, readers, etc. are what I remember, my opinions, etc.

* I never 'bought' the idea that Angel was originally going to stay in the Acathla hell dimension. Sarah Michelle Gellar liked David Boreanaz and was devoted to the Buffy/Angel relationship and Buffy/Angel was very popular and part of pop culture.

But if Joss Whedon did decide to keep Angel in the Acathla hell dimension, Buffy/Spike was clearly being set up already in BtVS S2. I'm not sure exactly how the writers would do it, but Buffy/Spike would happen sooner.

Faith was created and introduced because Juliet Landau wasn't available in BtVS S3 and thus Spike/Dru wasn't available in BtVS S3. With Spike in BtVS S3 and Buffy/Spike happening, Faith may not have been created or at least used as much. Or Spike/Faith would happen before Buffy/Spike.

* Buffy/Angel is affirmed in BtVS S3 because Buffy actually sacrifices to be with Angel. If Angel hadn't returned, there'd be no ''shipper wars'.

* Buffy/Spike was essentially delayed for 2 Seasons. The series may have ended sooner if Angel didn't come back. Sarah Michelle Gellar may be more willing to leave the series considering she'd consider David Boreanaz was 'screwed over'. And with Buffy/Spike happening sooner, there'd be not as much lust and huge pay increases that resulted from Buffy/Spike happening in BtVS S6 and BtVS S7.

* It's very likely David Boreanaz wouldn't have much of a career after BtVS S2 if Angel hadn't returned. As-is, David got Bones largely because of the significant increase in ratings that James Marsters brought AtS S5.

06-01-19, 01:47 PM
* I never 'bought' the idea that Angel was originally going to stay in the Acathla hell dimension. Sarah Michelle Gellar liked David Boreanaz and was devoted to the Buffy/Angel relationship and Buffy/Angel was very popular and part of pop culture.

I don't think Joss ever did more than entertain the idea and since WB was interested in a spin-off it was a fait accompli at that point. I don't know that SMG would have even had any input. It's not like if she didn't want the character and arc to continue that they'd have scuttled their plans for a spinoff and they needed him back in Season 3 to pull that off.

But if Joss Whedon did decide to keep Angel in the Acathla hell dimension, Buffy/Spike was clearly being set up already in BtVS S2. I'm not sure exactly how the writers would do it, but Buffy/Spike would happen sooner.

NARRATOR: Even after bringing the character back in Season 4, it still took two seasons and a network change for this to become a thing.

Faith was created and introduced because Juliet Landau wasn't available in BtVS S3 and thus Spike/Dru wasn't available in BtVS S3. With Spike in BtVS S3 and Buffy/Spike happening, Faith may not have been created or at least used as much. Or Spike/Faith would happen before Buffy/Spike.

Citation needed.

* It's very likely David Boreanaz wouldn't have much of a career after BtVS S2 if Angel hadn't returned. As-is, David got Bones largely because of the significant increase in ratings that James Marsters brought AtS S5.

I hate to break it to you but if FOX television/Josephson Entertainment were making a casting decision for "Bones" based on thinking James Marsters boosted the ratings for Angel Season 5, they'd have cast... James Marsters.

In reality, I don't think there's any real mystery that "Angel" Season 5 had more viewers because it was the only place for displaced "Buffy" viewers to come in from the cold, and as likely as not those that did would have mostly done so whether "Angel" had incorporated any character from "Buffy". I don't remember the specifics but I'm pretty sure I remember reading that their first and best hope had been to bring Aly over but she wasn't interested.

07-01-19, 07:41 PM
I'm glad that Angel was brought back. Angel's story in BtVS S3 and AtS is certainly imperfect. I pick at it for sure. However, it's generally *interesting*- especially the AtS parts. It's be a huge loss to cut all of that out. It's similar to that earlier thread question about whether we'd prefer for the Buffyverse seasons to be 12 eps so that they're "tighter." Even with the bad eps, I'd prefer 22 eps to get more content. AtS is imperfect but it's an excellent series and I wouldn't want to throw it away in exchange for nothing but Becoming being an even SADDER episode. As for whether the best aspects of AtS could be brought onto BtVS, I don't think so. We'd likely have to give up on the deeper exploration of Darla and Angel/Darla without Angel. Wolfram and Hart does not fit with Buffy's Sunnydale world at all. We'd necessarily lose Connor. BtVS really doesn't need a Fred; BTVS already has her character archetypes. Maybe Wesley could have a similar arc on BtVS S4-7 but it'd have to be rewritten and would likely demand too much screentime with such a large cast on BtVS. I think the one character who'd come out ahead would be Cordelia who could have remained a stronger character if she necessarily couldn't be the leading lady of the TV show.

Moreover, it would have felt like such frustrated potential to never get Angel back. Angel is set up to be a fascinating character because he carries so much history and because he has a soul co-existing with a demon. I don't think the writing lived up to all of that promise but sometimes it did. Either way without knowing how he'd be written, I would have felt like I was missing out if he never came back past S2.

As for Buffy's story, I don't think her story would have acquired extra layers or intrigue if Angel was permanently sent to hell. By early/mid S3, the show would have necessarily had to move on. There's only so much garment-rending and mourning that can occur in an action-adventure series. Buffy would have necessarily moved on to another love interest. I ship Buffy/Faith far more than Buffy/Angel but even there, I don't think Faith's canon story would have paired well with an actual romantic, first lesbian-couple romance with Buffy. The S3 Buffy/Faith dynamic works when the frenemy relationship has lesbian subtext. However if it was played as a full-on romantic relationship, I don't really feature Faith and Buffy coming together in romantic passion around Homecoming/Revelations and then, Faith going evil in Bad Girls/Consequences. It would have made Buffy/Faith seem repetitive of S2 Bangel instead of its own original story and the romance would have necessarily paled in comparison to Bangel with only a few eps for Buffy to fall in love. Even if Faith went evil in S4 or S5 after Faith and Buffy were dating for awhile, it would still feel repetitive of Bangel and it would rob some years of Faith redeeming herself, both of which would downgrade the story. I also think Faith's isolation was pretty pivotal to her fall in canon and starting her off with a central romance with Buffy would have destroyed that key factor in Faith's psychological collapse. To do Buffy/Faith as an open romantic relationship, I think we'd have to give up on Faith's fall to villainy which would be a shame because that was a great story.

Plus, let's be real, I don't think S3 Angel was crowding out alternative romantic possibilities for Buffy ala Faith or Xander. It was one season where Angel was being maneuvered to break up and leave Sunnydale. I think, practically, if Angel stays in Acathala, the only thing that changes about shipping is that the series is an open and shut case that Spike is the only one for her. One season of Bangel as a "dead relationship walking" didn't foreclose other romantic opportunities. I find the Buffy/Angel/Spike triangle very annoying but I'd be even more annoyed if Buffy only had one canon-supported romantic end-game in Spike.

That said, I could get behind Angel just appearing in LA for his spinoff and BtVS S3 as a "Buffy is single!" season. However, that would have cut out some boring S3 Bangel but would have left BTVS/ATS with an obligation to explain why Angel wouldn't go back to Sunnydale to be with Buffy only through cross-over and speeches on his own series. That would have been a weaker story than Buffy and Angel trying to make it work in S3 but failing enough that Angel felt the need to leave. If I had my druthers, I'd have Angel come back in S3 but Buffy and Angel would resolve not to be romantically involved and stick to it. Angel would be used on a more limited basis- I'd cherry pick his best scenes like Amends, Bad Girls, Consequences. He'd operate more as his own character/distant ally of the Scoobs than as a love interest.

08-01-19, 03:50 PM
Thought you meant that: what if Angel hadn't been brought back from whatever hell dimension he was in for S3. And I, for one, would be applaud. That would mean no dragged on romance. Even better - no Angel series! I'd call that a win/win situation! :D