As its final season began, Angel had already established a tone and theme for the year. In "Home," the final episode of season four, the titular vampire hero (David Boreanaz) had agreed to take over the Los Angeles branch of demonic law firm Wolfram & Hart. Vowing to put the firm's vast resources to work in the fight against evil, Angel and company effectively sold out -- with the best of intentions. Parent series Buffy the Vampire Slayer had recently spent its own final season developing an extended metaphor about the "war on terror." Now, Angel sets out to explore a subtler form of evil: the slippery slope of compromised idealism. Given the WB network's continued lack of faith in the show (the fifth season almost didn't happen and the sixth never did, despite a nice ratings bump) critics pointed out that Angel's decision to fight from within the belly of the beast served as a metaphor for the show's quest to tell compelling scripted stories on broadcast TV. Angel spent the season making compromises, so its producers had to settle for smaller budgets and self-contained episodes. They also had to bring Buffy alumnus James Marsters on board as a cast regular, despite his character's heroic death in the Buffy finale. With a ghostly Spike installed as Angel's gleefully snide conscience and rival, the writers brought in several other new and returning characters. Ditzy vampire bombshell Harmony (Mercedes McNab) stepped in as Angel's secretary and the show's central comic relief, while the smarmy Eve (Sarah Thompson) and the affable Knox (Jonathan M. Woodward) served as Wolfram & Hart's human faces.
As for the show's remaining mainstays, Angel romanced a werewolf named Nina (Jenny Mollen) and, along with Spike, came to terms with his feelings for his ex-girlfriend Buffy. (Much to fans' disappointment, though, Sarah Michelle Gellar did not reprise her signature role.) Street-smart demon hunter Gunn (J. August Richards) made a Faustian pact with Wolfram & Hart's senior partners and paid the price for his moral ambivalence. Scientist Fred (Amy Acker) found her soul shattered and her body colonized by an ancient demon named Illyria. Wesley (Alexis Denisof) went off the deep end when Illyria snuffed out his new romance with Fred. Only Lorne (Andy Hallett), the green-skinned empathic demon, got short shrift on the plot points, his presence reduced to the occasional quip or helping hand. This made room for a steady parade of guest stars. For the 100th episode, former Buffy and Angel regular Charisma Carpenter once more brought the caustic and beautiful Cordelia Chase to life. Vincent Kartheiser twice reprised his role as Angel's son, while Buffy vet Tom Lenk helped the fang gang keep tabs on their old friends from Sunnydale. The most unexpected guest of all came in the form of Christian Kane, whose scheming Lindsey McDonald resurfaced to set the stage for a finale that ended as abruptly and heroically as the series itself. ~ Brian J. Dillard, Rovi