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When Buffy Summers arrived in Sunnydale, it didn't take her long to realise that this wasn't your typical Californian town. Vampires, werewolves and zombies were all running loose in and around the local high-school and the mortality rate was reaching ridiculous levels. Were it not for the fact that Buffy happened to be rather adept at fighting these monsters (she was, after all, the Slayer), she might have dragged her Mom right back to Los Angeles.

Fortunately, Buffy wasn't alone in fighting the forces of darkness, and, in the very first episode, both she and the audience were introduced to the mysterious Angel (David Boreanaz). Offering cryptic clues and a bit of brooding to the show, it wasn't until episode seven, that we learnt that Angel was a vampire himself. Following a fairly lengthy career as a murdering psychopath with a taste for blood, Angel had been cursed by gypsies to walk the Earth with a soul. Seeking redemption, his mission was now to do good.

Angel: The Vampire Anthology - Cordelia
Towards the end of season three, Angel decided that it was time to leave Sunnydale and fight the good fight elsewhere. In reality, this came about because Buffy's creator, Joss Whedon, had been formulating a spin-off show based around the troubled vampire. Cue the appropriately titled Angel, which ran from 1999 to 2004.

To ease long-term Buffy fans into the new show, Whedon gave Angel a familiar face as a sidekick. Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter), onetime nemesis of Buffy, was there from the off and it is this character that is the focus of the first of four new DVDs that celebrate the best episodes of Angel. Each supporting character is afforded four episodes, chosen by Joss Whedon.

The Episodes
Angel: The Vampire Anthology - Cordelia consists of the following four episodes…

City of...
After her family faces financial ruin, Cordelia swaps Sunnydale for L.A. and hopes to make her fortune as an actress. However, a chance encounter with Angel leads her to join the staff of an up and coming PI company.

Angel: The Vampire Anthology - Cordelia
There’s No Place Like Plrtz Glrb
Angel fights the demon inside him as he attempts to rescue Cordelia from Pylea.

Birthday
Cordelia is forced to reconsider her position at Angel Investigations when she gets a glimpse of having a very different life.

Waiting in the Wings
Angel takes his friends to see a ballet performance, but is rather alarmed when he realises that the same dancers have been performing for over a hundred years…  

With her biting sarcasm and occasional bitchiness, Cordelia is one of the most loved characters from the Buffyverse. What makes this all the more surprising is that, during the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, her appearances were rather sporadic. To all intents and purposes, she was the spoilt little rich girl with no time for anyone who wasn’t in the in-crowd. Armed with a seemingly vacuous personality and a band of friends who copied her fashion sense and agreed with her bitchy comments, she was firmly in charge of Sunnydale High School.

More often than not, Cordelia would have very little to do with an episode’s plot and only arrive to highlight the isolated lives of the ‘Scooby gang’ with some barbed comments fired in their direction. All this changed with her induction into the Vampire-slaying group in the middle of season two. Brilliantly, Cordy’s personality was not compromised by this change in circumstances; she was just as bitchy as ever despite now being baggaged with Buffy’s right-hand man, Xander Harris, as a boyfriend. On rare occasions, we would see that there was more to this character than initially met the eye and, as she distanced herself from Buffy and the Slayerettes in season three, it became clear that Cordelia could win both sympathy and empathy from the audience.

So far, so Buffy. Angel, meanwhile, is a different show in terms of tone and pacing. Despite being set in the same universe, there are darker themes and less emphasis on humour. The addition of Cordelia is, therefore, all the more welcome. You can take the girl out of Sunnydale, but you can’t take the Sunnydale out of the girl…

Angel: The Vampire Anthology - Cordelia
The four episodes on the disc are a bit of a mixed bag. City of… is a confident and enjoyable first entry that establishes the characters but declines to offer a format, meaning that Angel will never be easily pigeonholed as a certain type of show. Present in this first episode is Doyle, the occasionally overlooked character from the first half of season one. Fans are constantly arguing over whether the producers had always intended to kill off this character at such an early stage (episode nine) but the late Glenn Quinn is great here, pushing the episode, and the series, in a nice direction. It is this character who is Angel’s link to ‘The Powers That Be’ and receives visions that alert him to the people who need help. When this gift/curse is transferred to Cordelia in the second half of the season, Sunnydale’s finest becomes a more compassionate individual.

Less enjoyable is There’s No Place Like Plrtz Glrb. This episode is the final part of a season two arc that took the show away from its usual setting (a sign of desperation for most shows) and is more in keeping with a Xena: Warrior Princess episode than something from the Buffyverse. Presumably, this light-humour arc was to counterbalance both the earlier happenings of this season (which had been pretty morbid and depressing), and season five of Buffy (which had been completely morbid and depressing). Viewed separately from its sister series and the rest of season two, and this episode is a little underwhelming.

Angel: The Vampire Anthology - Cordelia
A sequel of sorts to the fantastic episode The Wish from Buffy, Birthday gives Cordy the opportunity to live out her dream life. While not quite up to the same standards as the Buffy episode, it showcases a completely different type of episode to the two that precede it on this disc. Waiting in the Wings is also reminiscent of two earlier Buffy episodes. This time, I Only Have Eyes for You provides the basic idea of two characters (formerly Buffy and Angel, now Cordelia and Angel) being possessed by forces unknown. This leads to an episode with a heavy influence on dance, echoing the much celebrated musical episode of Buffy, Once More with Feeling.  As before, Angel manages to stamp its own character onto the episode, but it’s a slightly disappointing forty-five minutes when one considers what it could have been.

Video
Being a TV show, there’s nothing to get too excited about in terms of DVD presentation on this disc. Fortunately, we never plumb the depths of the video quality from the first season of Buffy (shot on very low quality film) but this is still serviceable at best. Matters aren’t helped by the fact that Angel is mainly either set at night or in darkened rooms. Picture quality occasionally struggles in three of the episodes where shadows merge together, but the second episode (shot mainly on location) affords the disc some brighter colours and a break from the shadows.

Audio
2.0 Stereo means a basic but capable mix for Angel. Considering the limitations when filming TV series, this was never going to be a disc that tested your set-up. Dialogue is occasionally over-shadowed by action and background noise, particularly in the first of the four episodes, which can be a bit of a bugbear.

Extras
A fifteen minute character profile does nothing to make this disc a worthy addition to a fan's DVD library. Covering each season with three minutes of clips, interviews... and, err, more clips, this wont reveal many nuggets of information.

Angel: The Vampire Anthology - Cordelia
Overall
Angel is a severely under-rated show but, although the episodes herein are very enjoyable, there’s very little to recommend about this disc. Angel is not a static show like The Simpsons where the status quo is returned at the end of each episode; characters develop and sub-plots progress, so the point of buying four episodes out of their respective seasons seems wholly redundant. If you’re a fan of the show, it’s probable that you’ll already have the season boxed sets and the solitary new extra does not warrant making this an additional purchase at its pre-bargain basement price. Meanwhile, newcomers should stay away from this anthology collection because, although it is marketed as perfect for casual fans, all four discs will cost you about the same price as the US season one boxed set. Considering you’ll get eight extra episodes and a more thorough understanding of the show, the choice is a no-brainer.


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