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Recap / Angel S01 E01 "City of"

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Our hero, ladies and gentlemen.
"Los Angeles. You see it at night, and it shines. It's a beacon. People are drawn to it. —People, and other things. They come for all sorts of reasons. My reason? No surprise there: it started with a girl..."

Having left Sunnydale and his love behind, we pick up with our hero where we previously left off: a depressed, lonely Angel getting hammered in a bar. After saving some pool-playing women from their dates (who turn out to be vampires, natch), a sullen Angel returns to his underground lair beneath an office complex. A man appears behind him, complimenting the "batcave" decorum. This fellow is Doyle, a magical Irishman sent by the Powers That Be. Doyle's here to enlist Angel in the good fight. Angel retorts that he's got it covered. Doyle warns that Angel is so cut off from humanity that his demon-slaying will only lead to apathy towards people. Furthermore, unless Angel does something to remedy this, he'll start to prey on humans again. Doyle hands Angel a note regarding his latest vision, that of a waitress in imminent peril. Angel agrees to look into it.


Angel follows the address to a coffee shop, where he strikes up an awkward conversation with the lady in question, a struggling actress named Tina. She agrees to meet him after work. Outside the shop, however, Tina waves around a can of mace, accusing Angel of working for a guy named Russell. Angel manages to defuse Tina and kindly offers her a ride. Tina, now embarrassed, is headed to a star-studded party and invites Angel along.

At the party, Angel skulks through the crowd and spots Cordelia Chase as she mingles with some execs. They talk about old times, and Cordelia announces that she moved to L.A. to pursue acting. She tactlessly excuses herself, explaining that she's busy "talking to people that are somebody." A bit deflated, Angel moves on and notices Tina arguing with a man. She and Angel take the elevator down, and are jumped by "Russel's" hired muscle. Angel fights them off and decides it's wise to stash Tina at his place.


Things go awry when Tina sees the slip of paper on which Doyle wrote her name. She flees upstairs, and when Angel tries to intervene, his hand bursts into flame from a ray of sunlight and he vamps out. Tina wails and runs outside, while Angel can only watch. Tina races to her apartment and starts packing, but Russell is lying in wait. He's interested to know who was with her last night. When Tina describes what happened to Angel's face, Russel vamps out (aha) and drains her. Angel arrives too late and discovers Tina's body.

Cordy's contact from the party calls to reports that Russell Winters is very interested in furthering her career. Cordelia is escorted via limo and seems very happy with herself. Angel packs a bag of weapons and prepares to go medieval on Russell. Cordelia is at Russell's for only a few minutes before she realizes that he is a vampire. Russell feebly denies this, then shrugs and vamps out. Angel arrives just in time, and he and Cordy flee into the night.

At Russell Winters Enterprises™, Angel barges through the doors, only to be intercepted by the lawyer, Lindsey MacDonald. Lindsey is well aware that Angel's a vampire, and warns him not to meddle with his client. Russell offers to make peace with Angel, but Angel kicks his swivel chair out a window. Russell bursts into flame and combusts before he hits the pavement.

Angel returns to the office to find Cordelia setting up shop. Doyle took it upon himself to offer her a secretary position. Doyle tells Angel that there's still a lot of people in the naked city who need help. He intones, "Are you game?" We cut to a view of Angel standing on a skyscraper, watching over the city. In a voice-over, we hear his reply:

"I'm game."

Tropes in this episode:

  • Always Camp: Oliver Simon, agent to the stars.
    Oliver: [to Angel] This isn't a come-on! I'm in a very serious relationship with a landscape architect.
  • Amoral Attorney: Lindsey, of course.
  • As You Know...: Doyle reveals to Angel how much he knows about him, which is of course really just an excuse to get any viewers who hadn't been watching Buffy up to speed.
  • Battle Discretion Shot: As Angel and Tina step out of a hotel elevator, two men grab Angel and pull him back into the elevator just as the doors close, while Stacy and his associate drag Tina away. We hear the roar that always accompanies Angel's Game Face, and when the elevator doors re-open, Angel is standing over the unconscious bodies of his assailants.
  • Beard of Evil/The Brute: Russell Winters' swarthy-looking henchman, Stacy.
  • Beautiful All Along:
    Angel: Why would a woman I’ve never met even talk to me?
    Doyle: [laughs] Have you looked into a mirror lately? [hesitates] No, I guess you really haven’t, no.
  • Big Fancy House: Russell's Casa de Vampire.
  • Bond One-Liner:
  • Broken Bird: Poor Tina.
  • Car Fu: After (finally) locating his vehicle, Angel races to intercept Tina's kidnapper before he can leave the parking garage. Angel and the henchman play chicken in their car, and the henchman loses, crashing into a parked car.
  • Casting Couch: What Russell's victims, typically young women recently moved to LA for their big break, think they're signing on for with him.
  • Casual Kink: According to Tina, Russel is a really big fan of — well, pain. "He talks about it like it's a friend of his."
  • Catapult Nightmare/Talking in Your Sleep: As the sun rises after a long, research-filled night, Angel makes his way home through the tunnels. He pops up from the sewer grate just in time to wake Tina, who is having a nightmare.
  • Cement Shoes: Angel fixes some tea for Tina, and the pair discuss their unseen foe. One of Tina's friends, Denise, disappeared after getting involved with Russell. Angel goes off to research her friend's disappearance; he finds information leading him to believe Denise was killed and her body dumped.
  • Character Overlap: Angel and Cordelia ease Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans into the new series.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Lindsey becomes a major antagonist to Angel over the course of the series.
  • Complete-the-Quote Title: "City Of"... Angels.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Doyle says Angel needs to stop being a recluse. He also says that because Angel drank Buffy's blood back in the Buffy Season Three finale ("Graduation Day, Pt. 2") Angel has a renewed craving for human blood, and eventually he will feed off the people he's trying to rescue.
    • Cordelia greets Angel at Margo's party by asking if he's still "Grrr," then asks to verify that Angel is not there "to bite anybody." Cordelia became aware that Angel is a vampire in Buffy S2 ("Halloween"), and has tangled with his alter-ego Angelus (who was very "Grrr", indeed) on more than one occasion.
    • Cordy also provides her backstory for those coming in late. In summary: Her parents were rich, they didn't pay taxes, the IRS got miffed, now she's broke. (Buffy, "The Prom")
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Russell is vaguely referred to as "that investment guy," but he evidently has fingers in a lot of pies. Tina says he's a depraved killer, and that he picks people with no family and no one to care.
  • Damsel in Distress: Ho boy. This episode sets the bar high: Those two girls at the beginning, Tina, and (lastly) Cordelia herself.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Tina is very much set up as a main character and possible love-interest for Angel, only to die two-thirds of the way through the episode.
  • Destination Defenestration: Angel heaves Stacy through the window of his own gym. Later, Russell takes the quick route to the ground floor of his own high-rise.
  • Drowning My Sorrows:
    • The episode with Angel in a bar, pretending to be drunk, and babbling on about Buffy to a bald guy who is not amused.
    • When Margo rings up Cordy to deliver her "good news," we see her popping pills and swigging alcohol. Turns out Margo throws parties so Russell can pick up new victims by watching videos of them
  • Eek, a Mouse!!: Doyle wanders in and asks why Angel isn't more pleased that he took care of Russell. Angel says he didn't help anyone, but Doyle points out that there's a girl upstairs who'd disagree. Cue Cordy's scream. The duo run upstairs and find Cordelia pointing her feather duster and pointing at the floor, where she thinks she saw a cockroach. "I think it's a bantamweight!"
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • At the same time as he is swilling alcohol, Angel is watching a group of men playing pool with some women. They leave with the girls, and Angel silently shadows them. Hey, wait a minute! He's not really drunk at all! Outside the bar, the trio reveal themselves as vampires, but Angel swoops to the rescue. One of the girls tries to thank him, but Angel glimpses the blood on her forehead and snarls at them, "Get away from me" before vanishing into the night. Within the first five minutes, we learn everything we need to know about Angel.
    • Doyle telling Angel the world needs them to show that there's still love and compassion then tells off a homeless woman.
  • Establishing Series Moment: Jeff Greenwalt was particularly delighted with Angel jumping into the wrong car. Joss, on the other hand, was over the moon with regard to Angel failing to save the girl.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Cordelia is able to deduce right away that Winters is a vampire, due to the heavy drapes all over the place and lack of mirrors. In mid-sentence, she realizes how much trouble she's in. Thankfully, Angel shows up Just in Time.
    Cordelia: I finally get invited to a nice place with no mirrors and lots of curtains ... hey, you're a vampire!
    Winters: What? No, I'm not.
    Cordelia: Are too!
    Winters: I don't know what you're talking about.
    Cordelia: I'm from Sunnydale! We had our own Hellmouth! I think I know a vampire when... I'm... alone with him his... fortress-like home...
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Russell tries to talk sense to Angel. Russell says he doesn't make waves, and adds, "In return, I can do anything I want." Angel appears to contemplate this, as he puts one leg on the chair Russell is sitting in. "Can you fly?" Angel asks, and with that he kicks the chair so that it rolls back and smashes through the floor-to-ceiling windows, incinerating Russell.
    Angel: Guess not.
  • Evil Redhead/The Mole: Cordelia's "friend," Margo, acts as a go-between for Russell and his new playmates.
  • Exposition Victim: Cordelia notices that the house she's in has no reflective surfaces at all. Out loud, she realizes that she's in a vampire's house and challenges the owner — until her Sunnydale instincts catch up with her mouth and she tries to pretend that she was joking.
  • False Reassurance: The scene between Tina and Russell exemplifies his ability to snare and control others. He goes from staring down Tina's revolver (admittedly not a health hazard for vampires, but still) to consoling her, claiming that he bought Denise a ticket home and that he will do the same for her. As Russell works his magic, Tina breaks down and cries.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Russel, who appears polite but really really isn't.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When Angel complains, "Why me?", Doyle's reply — that the "balance sheet" isn't exactly in Angel's favor — outlines the theme for Angel. When Angel next asks, "Why you?", Doyle uncomfortably replies, "We've all got somethin' to atone for." We follow up on this peek into Doyle's history in the episode "Hero".
    • Tina tells Angel that he's "just like" Russell. This foreshadows the revelation that Russell, like Angel, is a vampire.
    • Lindsey sweats over the "Senior Partners" learning of this incident over his phone.
  • Flashback: A few flashback scenes from Buffy are seen whilst Doyle is telling Angel the story of his life. These episodes are, in order: Angelus chomping down on Daniel and Margaret in "Amends" and the hooker in the alley in "Innocence"; Angel being cursed ("Innocence"), an opening credits shot of Buffy (originally from "Anne"); Angel and Buffy getting it on ("Revelations"); Angel's nightmare sequence from "Amends"; and lastly, Angel walking away into the fog, and into his own series ("Graduation Day, Pt. 2").
  • Genre Savvy: Due to her experiences in Sunnydale, Cordelia just takes one glance around Winters' house, takes note of the lack of mirrors and numerous heavy curtains, and instantly deduces that Winters is a vampire.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold:
    • Tina, a fairly nice blonde who tries to remain sunny and confident despite her unenviable status and strikes up an ok rapport with Angel.
    • The two girls Angel saves in the opening scene are both blonde, and thank him for saving them without showing repulsion upon seeing that he's a vampire to (although they do look a bit rattled by this).
  • The Handler: Doyle tries to be this to Angel in this episode, giving him assignments while lingering back from the actual missions. Angel isn't having it, drags him along to drive the car while he rescues Cordelia, and the rest is history.
  • Hard-Work Montage: Angel skimming the internet inside the L.A. Public Library. The library was intended to be a frequent location on Angel (a possible nod at Buffy, in which the Scoobies convene regularly in the school's library). Tons of stock footage of Angel accessing computers and books was shot, but they were only ever used for this episode.
  • Hawaiian-Shirted Tourist: Angel and Doyle drive up to Russell's mansion, with Angel wearing a tacky luau shit. He approaches the security booth while performing the old "we're lost and need directions" bit for the guard. Angel inquires about the football game the guard is watching. Then he punches the guard and yanks the wire out of the security camera.
  • Hope Spot: When Russell bites Tina, the camera immediately switches to Angel in hot pursuit. Given the unspecified time between then and now, the narrative tricks the viewer into expecting Angel to rescue Tina just in time. As it so happens, he barges into her apartment long after Tina is dead, and Russell flown the coop.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • As Angel and Doyle leave a liquor store, Doyle continues his Jiminy Cricket act. He tells Angel, "It's about reaching out to people, showing them that there's love and hope still left in this world." In the midst of this, a homeless lady asks Doyle for spare change and without missing a beat he responds, "Get a job, you lazy sow!"
    • Cordelia pretends to be too busy schmoozing to pay much attention to Angel. When we cut to her at home, Cordelia is dirt-poor and living off appetizers she swiped from the buffet table.
  • I Let Gwen Stacy Die: This is effectively Angel's first case, but he fails to prevent Winters from killing Tina — though he does managed to rescue Cordelia from a similar fate.
  • Improvised Weapon/Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Stacy runs his own gym as a side gig. Angel tracks him down and 'interrogates' him via a handy barbell.
  • It's Personal: Doyle tries to delve into Angel's guilt complex regarding Tina's death, but Angel says he doesn't want to share his feelings:
    Angel: I wanna find the guy that killed Tina, and I want to look him in the eye.
    Doyle: Then what?
    Angel: Then I'm gonna share my feelings.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: Angel remarks on passing through Tina's hometown, Missoula, Montana during "the Depression," then stammers, "—My depression... I was depressed there."
  • Meet Cute: Angel's initial attempts to strike up conversation with Tina are less than successful. He only gets her attention by using his Super Reflexes to catch a falling cup.
    Tina: You’ve been watching me?
    Tina: You don't hit on girls very often, do you?
  • Must Be Invited: Russell Winters sets pretty girls up in apartments he owns. Since technically they're his guests, he can come and go as he wishes – and eat them.
  • My Card: At the cocktail party, a talent agent offers his card to a befuddled Angel. Later, Lindsey introduces us to our series-wide Big Bad, Wolfram & Hart, by shoving his business card at Angel. Immediately after he kills Russell, Angel politely sticks it back in Lindsey's lapel pocket.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Russell Winters.
  • Negated Moment of Awesome:
    • Angel, in a race to catch Tina's kidnappers, is a bit over-enthusiastic in leaping into his convertible. Turns out, it's the wrong convertible.
    Angel: Damn it...
    • At the sound of gunfire, Doyle drives away, but his Jiminy Cricket-ness gets the better of him and he turns the car around and tries to ram through the gates. The gates hold, and steam erupts from the car's hood.
    Doyle: Good gate.
  • Nothing Up My Sleeve: Angel has a retractable stake up each sleeve.
  • Novelisation: This was the only episode directly novelized, unlike the many collections of Buffy episode novelizations. However, the novel contains several scenes not in the episode, including flashbacks of Angel's backstory that were similar to later flashbacks in "The Prodigal" and "Darla". Apparently, Angel's human name, Liam, had not been established when it was written, as he is referred to as "Master Angelus" during the flashbacks.
  • Once Upon a Time: Doyle bringing the non-Buffy-watching audience up to speed.
  • Offscreen Teleportation:
    • Russell strolls casually after Cordelia as she runs from him and sprints up the foyer stairs. No great hurry, because he teleports up the stairs and grabs Cordy at the platform just as the lights go out.
    • Then again, Russell is a really old vampire — as his vamp face indicates — which means he may be superhumanly fast. The Master was also supernaturally fast.
    • We see Angel doing a Flash Step in later episodes, so this would appear to be the case.
  • Playing Drunk: Outside, the men reveal their true nature as vampires. They are about to attack the girls when Angel stumbles over 'drunkenly', looking for his car. He offers one of the vampires a breath mint and fighting ensues.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Having apparently grown accustomed to Russell's habits, his lawyer's already on top of Tina's conspicuous death. Lindsey has paid witnesses ready to report that they saw a "dark-complexioned man" fleeing the scene. No shortage of those!
  • Percussive Therapy: Angel doesn't take Tina's death well.
    Angel: Look, I'm not looking to share my feelings. I'm gonna find the guy who killed Tina, and I'm gonna look him in the eye.
    Doyle: And then what?
    Angel: And then I'm gonna share my feelings.
  • Pre-Asskicking One-Liner: Angel strolling out of the shadows and declaring (in a voice of Tranquil Fury): "I have a message... from Tina."
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: An epic example when Russell Winters gloats about how Wolfram and Hart's protection allows him murder with impunity:
    Russell: I pay my taxes, I keep my name out of the paper, and I don't make waves. And in return, I can do anything I want.
    Angel: Really. Can you fly?
    [boots him out of his office window where he burns in the sunlight]
    Angel: Guess not.
  • Previously On…: For the uninitiated viewers out there, Doyle offers to tell Angel a "bedtime story" and recaps Angel's entire past. We see a montage of short clips of Angel's life from Europe to Sunnydale.
  • Properly Paranoid: Tina has ample reason to be jittery around Russell.
  • Psychic Powers: Doyle uses his vision to find people who need help
  • Reveal Shot: Angel apparently pouring out his problems to a girl at the bar, only to reveal he's talking to a rather unamused black man.
  • Red Skies Crossover: A despondent Angel calls someone (she doesn't identify herself, but it's Sarah Michelle Gellar on the other end), but hangs up as soon as she answers. Buffy's side of the call is shown in "The Freshman".
  • Rescue Sex: Back at Angel's place, Tina assumes that This Is the Part Where... Angel "comforts" her. Angel, noting that Tina is accustomed to being used, tells her that he has no intention of taking advantage, causing her to break down crying.
  • Scary Minority Suspect: All part of the service arranged by Wolfram & Hart. Lindsey tells Russell that a black male has been identified as fleeing the scene of his latest murder.
  • Spider-Sense: Tina races home and starts frantically packing her bag. Among her possessions is a revolver. She suddenly grabs it and whirls, aiming at the well-dressed man standing there. It's Russell.
  • Starter Villain: Russell Winters, who in turn is a client of the overall main villains of the series.
  • Storming the Castle: Angel storms Russell Winters' mansion to avenge Tina's death.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Doyle is one for Whistler. In fact, the original drafts of the episode had Whistler in it. Doyle was created when Max Perlich was unavailable.
  • These Hands Have Killed: Angel tries to check Tina's pulse at her neck, and his fingers come away wet with blood.
    • Deleted Scene: In the original script, the scene in which Angel finds Tina's dead body ends with him cradling her, then licking her blood from his fingers. Although creator Joss Whedon claims that moment was his favorite moment in the script, it was removed at the risk of Too Bleak, Stopped Caring. You can see Boreanaz about to taste the blood, but it fades out just in time.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Yes, Cordy, it's a brilliant idea to spout off the reasons that you know someone is a vampire when there's no one else and no weapons within screaming distance.
  • Trouble Entendre: Angel discussing Russel with Doyle. Doyle encourages Angel to share his feelings, with Angel declining and instead sharing his plan.
    Angel: I wanna find the guy that killed Tina, and I want to look him in the eye.
    Doyle: Then what?
    Angel: Then I'm gonna share my feelings.
  • Vagueness Is Coming: A villains version, when, after seeing Angel in action, Lindsey calls his boss to say that there is someone new in town who they should keep an eye on, but not tell the Senior Partners about yet.
  • Vampires Are Rich: Russell is, but subverted with Angel.
    Cordelia: You're not exactly rolling in it, Mr. I-was-alive-for-200-years-and-never-developed-an-investment-portfolio.
    • Justified by Russell having a public persona: social security, I.D., properties. Angel has always been a drifter and is not like he ever owned any property he could legally sell.
  • Waiting for a Break: Tina and (ssh, don't tell anyone) Cordelia.
    Tina: I came here to be a famous movie star. But, they weren't hiring.
  • Warm Bloodbags Are Everywhere: Angel has spent his time in L.A. silently hunting vampires and keeping his distance from other humans, his lust for human blood having been awakened when he fed off of Buffy. Doyle warns him that keeping his distance from other people is not going to help; Angel can't afford to isolate himself from the people he's trying to protect, or he'll eventually stop caring and revert back to a monster.
    Doyle: You see this vampire, he thinks he’s helping. Fighting the demons. Staying away from the humans so as not to be tempted. Doing penance in his little... cell. But he’s cut off. From everything. From the people he’s trying to help.
    Angel: I still save ‘em. Who cares if I don’t stop to chat?
    Doyle: When was the last time you drank human blood?
    Angel: [quietly] Buffy.
    Doyle: Left you with a bit of a craving, didn’t it? Let me tell you something, pal. That craving is going to grow, and one day soon one of those helpless victims that you don’t really care about is going to look way too appetizing to turn down. And you’ll figure, "Hey! What’s one against all I’ve saved? Might as well eat them. I’m still ahead by the numbers!"
  • You Are Too Late: It's uncertain how long it takes Angel to make his way through the sewers to Tina's apartment, but it's far too long to prevent her death in any case.
  • You Have No Idea Who You're Dealing With: Stacy, who is apparently unaware of Angel's vampire nature, warns Angel that he's in over his head.
    Angel: Russell? Let me guess. Not big on the daylight or the mirrors? Drinks a lot of V8?
  • You Remind Me of X: Angel is sitting at a bar, very drunk, and relating the story of why he came to Los Angeles. This version of the story seems to center mostly on the fact that the large, bald black man sitting nearby "reminds" him of Buffy.
    Angel: [slurring] Because, because— y'know... the hair.
  • Your Door Was Open:
    • Our introduction to Doyle.
    • Takes a darker turn in Russell's first on-screen appearance:
    Russell: [absently] Oh, I own the building. Most of the block.

High school's over, bud. You gotta make with the grown-up talk, now.

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