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Over the course of 110 episodes from 1999-2004, viewers followed the trials and tribulations of Angel (David Boreanaz), vampire with a soul and one-time boyfriend of Buffy (the, uh, Vampire Slayer), as he dealt with demons, ghosts and other things that go bump in the night in his role as an unorthodox private investigator. This was the basic format for the appropriately titled show, Angel and there were lots of laughs, plenty of brooding and a few impending apocalypses along the way. Lucky, then, that Angel did not fight alone, and an ‘Anthology Collection' from Twentieth Century Fox celebrates those episodes which focus on the supporting characters.

Angel: The Vampire Anthology - Gunn
The producers of Angel had a curious tendency of introducing new characters to the series towards the end of its first few seasons. In the closing arc of season two, for example, we met Fred (Amy Acker) who would go on to become a regular character in the series and, at the end of season three, the brattish Connor first appeared. Meanwhile this entry in Angel’s ‘best-of collection’ concerns Gunn (J. August Richards) who was brought in as season one neared its finale.

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

When Angel is hired by a millionaire businessman to put an end to a blackmail plot, he encounters a gang of vampire-killing vigilantes, led by the fearless Gunn.

First Impressions
Cordelia has a disturbing vision of Gunn in danger and takes it upon herself to be his sworn protector.

That Old Gang of Mine
Karaoke bar Caritas is the location for a siege orchestrated by Gunn’s former colleagues and the vampire hunter must determine where his loyalties truly lie.

 Double or Nothing
A deal Gunn made years ago causes problems for him and his friends when the debt collector arrives in Los Angeles.  

Angel: The Vampire Anthology - Gunn
It's fair to say that when Gunn was introduced in Angel, the signs weren't too promising. Haunted by the thought that he was to blame for the death of his sisters to vampires, Gunn's brand of brooding could match Angel's in the more depressing episodes of this series. Fortunately, as the series progressed and J. August Richards found his feet in the role, the character could be called upon as reliable comic relief when Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) was AWOL. When Angel and Wesley (Alexis Denisof) started to take the, frankly barmy, plot-lines a little too seriously, Gunn could be relied upon to remind the audience that -hey- this is supposed to be fun.

Strange then, that this anthology collection tends to concentrate on Gunn in his more dramatic (read: serious and occasionally dull) role as a vampire hunter. His introduction story, Warzone is present and correct on the disc, and it's a solid episode from Angel's first season. It does, however, all seem startlingly reminiscent of Blade. Suffice to say, it performs its purpose of introducing not only Gunn but also his gang who parade around the lowlier parts of L.A. staking vampires.

Next up is First Impressions, a lightweight episode and a curious choice since it does not really develop Gunn's character in any real direction. There is, however, some sparkling chemistry between Charisma Carpenter and J. August Richards; perhaps leading the audience to a plot line that would never materialise.

Angel: The Vampire Anthology - Gunn
Gunn's gang makes a reappearance in the third, and best, episode on the disc. It's bizarre that the producers decided to wait so long in giving us a truly Gunn-centric episode, but season three's That Old Gang of Mine, takes the belated honours. Gunn, Wesley, Cordelia and Fred are trapped in karaoke bar Caritas and must rely on Angel to come to the rescue. There's not much happening for quite a lot of the runtime, but you can always rely on the clever dialogue before Gunn finally chooses between new friends and old. Gunn's closing speech is a surprising end to the episode, the motives of which were sadly not fully explored as the third season progressed.

Finally, there's Double or Nothing which manages to fill in a bit of back-story to Gunn's character. While it's nice to know a little more about the guy's past, this is really one of those Buffyverse episodes where there are a lot of subplots fighting for centre-stage and, since this episode occurs after a pivotal arc of the third season, it's a little redundant.

Angel: The Vampire Anthology - Gunn
Occasionally you may feel inclined to shout at the TV: ‘Turn the lights on, for God’s sake!’, as Angel takes place in a particularly shadowy world. Those are the breaks when your main character is a vampire but it does the picture quality no favours when it has to differentiate between black-clothed demon hunters and darkened back-drops. Yes, it’s all very atmospheric but it comes as a relief when we see a few scenes take place in broad daylight and, under these conditions, it becomes a lot fairer to judge the picture quality. Sadly, Angel missed out as many shows begun embracing HD, but the series still looks far slicker than many programmes that are just a few years older (the earlier seasons of Buffy, being a prime example).

A standard Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix does the honours for Angel: The Vampire Anthology - Gunn and it's your standard TV DVD transfer; nothing too spectacular but the fact that it's a release of such a recent show means that it's more than capable. No directional effects, of course, but dialogue is concise and the soundtrack is well-presented.

Question : How do you persuade  boxed set-owning fans to double-dip? Answer : Not by relying on a paper-thin character bio that's artificially stretched to fifteen minutes with clips galore and some very short interviews. Sadly, this is all this disc has going for it...

Angel: The Vampire Anthology - Gunn
New to the Buffyverse? Well, do yourself a favour and seek out the Buffy boxed sets. And then do the same with Angel. Do not, repeat not, believe that a collection of jumbled episodes will give you a good idea of how a Joss Whedon show operates, because it's much the same as skipping from scene to scene in the DVD chapter selection of a film you've never seen. There are ups and there are downs to each season of Angel, but to truly appreciate them, they are supposed to be watched in consecutive order. And fans, if you must see the lazy character featurette, then give the disc a rent.