Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Buffy vs Angel

Let's start by agreeing there is no reason to pit Buffy against Angel (Although, obviously if we did Buffy would kick Angel's sorry vampire ass). Both these two shows are both delightfully available to stream and meant to be enjoyed in tandem.  And, oh, how I do.  But it is hard not to compare them, right?

Here's something from Noel Murray's recaps over at the AV Club that I liked a lot:

They're different kinds of shows, these two.  Buffy is punchier in a lot of ways, and more intimate.  Angel is the epic adventure, that takes its time to build and pay off a story.  But both are witty, thrilling, heartbreaking, and astoundingly mature about what it means to be alive in this world, and to assume responsibility for who we are, what we do, who it affects and what it means.

I really love that quote.  I love the way he calls the shows "astoundingly mature" because they've both long been reviled as kid stuff by people who've never watched either show.  But after my second run through both series, I am even more blown away by just how goddamn good they are; thought-proving, emotional and so satisfying.  

But if I'm gonna sum up the differences between the two shows, I would do so thusly:


Buffy saves the world.  A lot.  Angel doesn't believe that the world can be saved.  It's a bleak worldview, but also one that I find strangely comforting.  You learn by my age that you're not going to save the world once, much less a lot. Decency is its own reward and might, in fact, be the only reward.   But decency still matters. You don't have to contribute to the bullshit.  You are still the captain of your own shit.

Enough of this pontificating. Let's get to the numbers!

Favorite Episodes - Buffy
#5 - Innocence
In which we learn that Whedon doesn't have to kill anyone to shatter your heart

#4 - Dopplegangland
I am totally gay for evil Willow
#3 - The Zeppo
And I loved seeing Xander get a win
#2 - Once More with Feeling
Everything about this episode is perfect. Except Giles should sing more.  Giles should always sing
#1 - Hush
I gotta say - this is my favorite.  So fun, so smart and so scary.

Favorite Episodes - Angel

#6-4 - The Whole Pylea Arc
Pylea is peak Cordy!
#3 - Waiting in the Wings
Such a great, creepy, cool episode that should have been it for Angel/Cordy smooches
#2 Not Fade Away
Best. Finale. Ever.
#1 Smile Time
But this is my favorite episode in the whole damn Whedon world.  

Let's Bring the Pathos - Buffy
I'm not sure any television show has gotten the death of a parent down better than The Body.  Maybe Friday Night Lights.  But the way the camera angles were always a little askew,  and everyone felt confused and comforted by tasked minutia.  That episode was hard to watch.  It broke my heart.  It was perfect.

Let's Bring the Pathos - Angel
Oh, Fred, when you died there really was A Hole in the World.  And when you said, "No, I am not - I am not the damsel in distress.  I am not some case!  ... I am not gonna be cut down by some monster flu.  I am better than that!"  You summed up why we love Joss Whedon so much and then he killed you before you even got to spend a night with the love of your life and we hated him a little.  How perfectly Whedonesque!  Cordy should have gotten an ending as poetic as yours.

Let's Bring the Hathos - Buffy
You're probably expecting me to say Beer Bad, aren't you?  I'm not - although that was a true nadir in the show.  You may be expecting me to say Riley.  But I'm not even going to say that.  I'm almost going to say that most of my Buffy hathos is for Xander's endless tendency to question Buffy's loyalty and direction.  Remember when they yanked her out of heaven and then threw a party for her, but ignored her through it and then Xander was all "You're not being a good enough friend?"  Shut up, Xander!

But worse than that:  Xander left Anya at the alter.  Xander was heartless and then never made it up to her and then she died. Hated it.
Let's Bring the Hathos - Angel
Oh my god, you guys ALL of season 4 but especially what happened to Cordelia.  She and Angel are falling in love (what?)!  She's a higher power (wait...what?)! Higher powers don't have any powers (huh?)!  She's sleeping with a kid who is, for all intents and purposes, her son (WHAT!  GROSS!) She's evil (WHAT?!)  I just hated the whole thing.

I enjoyed the quick redemption of her character in season 4, but didn't cleanse the bad taste in my mouth.

So, Meg, Which One Is Better?
It sort of seems like I liked Angel more, right?  But I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that I watched Angel last.  In a nutshell: while I may prefer the themes and philosophy of Angel, I prefer Buffy Summers to Angel.  She's a better character (which is saying something since Angel is a great character).  Thus, the shows share equal parts of my affection.  I love them both a lot.  They make me happy Let's do a dance of joy.