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Angel the Series: Why The Series is The King of Found Family Shows

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Spoilers for the entirety of “Angel the Series” below

Angel the Series

Angel the Series Season 5

Everybody wants to be a part of something; a team, a club, a gang, a family. It’s human nature to want to connect to others, and yet rarely in life does a person happen upon that perfect blend of acceptance and love that they seek.

But we can find it on television!

There is a long history of television shows that feature “found families,” better known as groups of people that aren’t related by blood but through experiences. These groups bond over time and create close-knit units that resemble a family.

There are many examples: Cheers, Friends, The Office, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, crime procedurals like Law and Order, even Scooby-Doo! All of these are series about a group of people who find each other and create that perfect unit that understands and accepts you in a way that you can’t find elsewhere; a place where everybody knows your name.

Cheers/NBC Universal

Cheers NBC Universal

I find, however, that as ironic as it may seem, found family shows rarely reflect the nature of what actually being a family means. I suppose this is only natural considering the escapist nature of many of these shows, but still, sometimes I find shows touting the values of family without diving into what it really means to be one.

These series show internal conflicts and arguments within each group to test the limits of their bonds. Sometimes characters disagree with each other, lie to each other, or say hurtful things, but an overwhelming amount of these conflicts get resolved with an apology and a hug.

Buffy exemplifies this idea several times throughout its run, most notably at the end of its fourth season. The core group of friends, Buffy, Willow, and Xander have a huge argument, but soon after come together and hug it out. A few scenes later they, quite literally, become one greater being to defeat the big bad of the season heavily symbolizing the nature of their relationship. They are stronger as one unit, and they will always be there for each other.

Our real families don’t always get along this well or reconcile so easily. These series provide ideal units that always stay together when their limits are tested, but real-life families don’t just test the limits of their bond, they break them. Therefore, the harsher a show attempts to break a family apart, the further a show can dive into what it actually means to be one. No show breaks limits like Angel the Series.

Angel, like so many other found family series, takes a group of outcasts and brings them closer to each other through their adventures and experiences until they consider each other family.

Angel, a vampire with a murderous past who is attempting to redeem himself after gaining a soul, is at the center of the group. He hires Cordelia, an aspiring actress, Wesley, an expert on all things mystical, and Gunn, a vampire hunter from the streets, to help him fight monsters and save lives in the city of Los Angeles. As their adventures progress, they create the standard television “found family” (which will eventually also include Fred, a brilliant scientist, Lorne, a demon who can read your aura when you sing, Angel’s son, Connor, and Spike, basically Angel’s vampiric brother).

Angel goes so far as to make this overt by having Angel claim he is Cordelia’s family at the end of season one, with her returning the sentiment in the closing moments when she urges Angel not to be embarrassed for drinking some blood in front of her; she doesn’t judge his vampiric needs because they are family. They’ve had their ups and downs, sure, but in the end, they are there for each other.

Angel

Angel Season 1 “The Ring”

That is until Angel fractures the family by kicking everyone out of his house. Angel is separated from the group for half of the second season, and when he does finally apologize and return, he is only allowed back into the group if he agrees to take a secondary role to Wesley.

While Angel is forgiven, the way he broke their trust isn’t forgotten and several comments are thrown at Angel regarding his lack of familiarity with the current unit. From this point onwards, Angel never fully regains Gunn’s trust as a friend, and due to Wesley’s position as the new leader, he and Angel have a building conflict that erupts when Wesley, trying to avoid a terrible prophecy, kidnaps Angel’s newborn son, Connor.

The series continues to push these people into situations where the absolute worst parts of them aren’t just exposed but personified. After the kidnapping, Angel doesn’t just threaten to kill Wesley, he attempts to. Gunn commits murder against Fred’s wishes, breaking her illusion as to who he is and what he is capable of. Connor, after growing up in a hell dimension and developing many personal demons, drops his own father into the ocean in a metal crate.

The team willingly releases Angelus (Angel’s murderous past self) to help them defeat an all-powerful beast. This series has a much less overt “we are family” message, and instead develops a subtle allusion to the fact that these people consistently use their demons to solve problems.

Angel

Angel Season 5 “Power Play”

And who better to let your demons loose on than your family? There are moments that happen between families that are so ugly we’d only ever let them be seen by our families. Sometimes these actions lead to apologies, often they don’t, and even more often those apologies lead to the cycle repeating. Angel may be a show about literal demons but the parallels we can draw to our own lives make it a series that anyone can relate to, especially those audience members who have wished their families were a bit more perfect.

Angel himself wishes his family was more perfect. While at the bottom of the ocean (he’s unable to die due to his vampire superpowers), he passes the agonizing time by fantasizing about the perfect family dinner, which includes him and Cordelia happy, Gunn and Fred together, and Wesley back at the table – he’s sharing a meal with the people he loves. It is a scene directly out of any other found family show. But here, like in reality, this family is a fantasy.

Angel

Angel Season 4 “Deep Down”

When Wesley pulls Angel out of the ocean, there is no reconciliation. He drops Angel off with the rest of the group and immediately retreats. When Angel comes face to face with Connor, they argue and fight, and the scene ends with Angel saying, “I love you, Connor. Now get out of my house.”

None of these scenes feel good to watch. Unlike so many other found family shows, Angel doesn’t provide its audience with the comfort of family, but the reality of it. It doesn’t always feel good to be part of your family or the one you’ve chosen. Families get angry and livid. After all these events, the characters in Angel harbor feelings towards each other that bend quite a ways away from love. Some of them not only dislike each other, they actively can’t stand one another. Trust isn’t a given, and they hit each other much more than they ever hug each other.

Angel

Angel Season 4 “Soulless”

Yet the love and commitment within this group prevails. Despite Angel threatening to kill Wesley if he returned, Wesley still spends months searching the ocean for Angel. Angel still loves Connor while knowing that Connor wanted him to suffer for eternity. In the final season, the team still accepts Gunn after he makes a decision that results in Fred’s death. The acceptance of these crushing low points and the choice to love in spite of them is what separates Angel’s family from the rest. The past is never forgotten, and in many cases not even forgiven, but this only proves their strength as a unit. Despite the disastrous team they have made and despite the wedges that have driven them apart, they still stand together. If none of those horrible conflicts could tear these people apart, well, nothing can.

Audiences, myself included, watch these found family shows for escapism. We enter a blissful place where everyone is loved and conflict pushes people closer together instead of pulling them apart. Angel reminds us that’s not how real life works. Sometimes we make each other suffer.

By not pandering to our fantasy, Angel creates a refreshingly realistic portrayal of family and proves how powerful your own family unit can be even with all its imperfections, providing a better perspective on the families we have in real life. This is why Angel is the king of found family shows.

The final scene of the series shows four people, most of whom at some point have tried to kill each other, standing side by side in the rain. They aren’t a perfect unit and they aren’t about to become one being, proving how strong their bonds are. Instead, they are four flawed individuals with their own goals, own beliefs, own morals, and own reasons for being there, who still choose to stand side by side in the rain, ready to fight and die together.

Angel

Angel Season Five “Not Fade Away”

If that’s not a family, I don’t know what it is.

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10 Best Lessons The Good Place Taught Us

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The Good Place Lessons

For a show focusing on what happens after death, it sure has a lot to teach us about life.

The Good Place was bursting with lessons and teachable moments that were thrown at us in a variety of ways: Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason’s experiences in the faux Good Place, Chidi’s philosophy lessons, Michael’s trial-and-error of understanding humanity, and several hundred Janet reboots.

Not all of the lessons were equal but they were equally as important, and we’ll forever be grateful that the show put them on our radar and helped us become better people.

Join us in reflecting on the lessons we’ve learned from the best, smartest, and most well-written show of the 2010s.

Lesson #1 – Whatever you think you know about your life, you’re probably wrong.

Time after time we thought we had The Good Place figured out, only for it to pull the rug out from under us again and again. Take a moment and you’ll notice the same thing tends to happen in our real lives. Did you schedule out your entire week? Too bad an ant colony is planning an invasion on your kitchen Wednesday. Did you finally find the best pizza in the city? Just wait until you find out it’s a drug front. Think your successful friend is trying to help you move up in the office? Sorry, he’s actually an evil demon relentlessly torturing you.

The Good Place taught us that not only are things not always what they seem, but that reality is not even close to what we think. Apples to oranges is really more like apples to your insurance card. So get ready to roll with the punches and stay on your toes – you never know what’s coming next.

Lesson #2 – Change is possible, but it’s work.

Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason each had to change themselves if they wanted to earn a spot in the Good Place. It wasn’t easy, though. They had to continually work at improving over 800 years of time, with demons, both personal and literal, trying to drag them down. But they put in the work and time to improve, and most importantly, they didn’t leave each other behind.

They never jumped on each other from slip-ups or told the other they were worthless because they were bad people in the past. They worked hard, both individually and together, to change for the Good. Even Michael, the demon who began the series torturing them, became a force for good, and if Michael can do it, so can you.

The Good Place Lessons

NBC/The Good Place

Lesson #3 – Just because you think you’re a good person doesn’t mean you are.

Chidi and Tahani both completely believed they had earned paradise, as did our recent buddy Brent in season 4. Unfortunately for them, they were secretly in the Bad Place all along, proving definitely that just because you think you’re a good person, doesn’t mean anyone else does. Tahani and Brent both need some more self-awareness and a better understanding of what being “good” entails, but Chidi only ever had the best intentions at heart and he still constantly caused pain and dismay to those around him through his indecision. We certainly took a look in the mirror after these revelations, not to make sure we were good people, but to find out what parts of ourselves weren’t good at how we could adjust them.

Lesson #4 – We make our own meaning.

Whether it’s helping other people, partying like there is no tomorrow, or building a relationship, we make our own meaning in life. The humans of the Good Place are perpetually screwed, and yet they continue helping each other, comforting each other, laughing together, and building their bonds. When demons are coming for them, they celebrate. When they’re bound for hell, they spend time trying to save others from the same fate. When they discover soulmates aren’t real, they make them anyway. When everything seems lost in our own lives, we think of The Good Place to remind us that we can find a purpose in all that madness, and be our best selves in the process.

Lesson #5 – Almond milk is bad for the environment.

When Chidi discovers he’s in the Bad Place, he believes he knows the reason: he drank almond milk despite knowing it was bad for the environment. We never knew this, but have totally removed almond milk from our diets ever since. Chidi was initially derided for believing this was the reason he was sent to the Bad Place, but we’ve learned in the back half of the series that small, seemingly inconsequential transgressions (such as drinking almond milk) are contributing to the mass rejection of humans from the Good Place. It’s difficult to be good in a world that has become so complicated that the simple act of drinking almond milk loses you points, and we’ve been on the lookout for the unseen consequences behind our innocent actions ever since.

The Good Place Lessons

The Good Place/ NBC

Lesson #6 – Own who you are (even if it’s a Jaguars fan)

While change and betterment were at the core of The Good Place, Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason only made progress at becoming better people when they acknowledged and accepted their flaws.

The four humans weren’t bad people, per se, they were simply products of their environment who oftentimes let their insecurities get the best of them. But those qualities also made them unique and valuable. They were just “bad enough” that they could change, but they also needed those qualities in order to change. Change requires acknowledgment of the problem, acceptance of those flaws, and the desire to become better. The humans did all of that and wore their flaws like badges of honor to improve and grow in the afterlife.

Check Out Our The Good Place Gift Guide for All Your Afterlife Swag

However, improvement never required them to become different people. They channeled their flaws and turned them into positives. Even after becoming better, those fundamentals of who they were and what made them the characters we love were still there; Eleanor’s raunchiness, Chidi’s indecisiveness, Jason’s simultaneously dopeness and dopey-ness, and Tahani’s need for approval. Their experiences came in handy many times when dealing with demons and trying to save the world ie. Eleanor’s wit and skepticism were instrumental in continuously cracking the mystery that the Good Place was really the Bad Place. It was because of who they were that they were able to make such strides in the afterlife, flaws and all. 

Lesson #7 – Empathy goes a long way 

When the series began, Michal was a demon from the Bad Place who enjoyed causing pain to the four humans, but as time went on and he grew closer to the humans, he began to learn and understand what it meant to be human. He became empathetic to their experiences, their struggles, and their desire to change.

The best example of this is when Michael agrees to help them get to the judge so they can present their case of why they deserve to be in the Good Place. When he realized they only had four badges to get through the portal, he told Eleanor that he finally solved “The Trolley Problem” and sacrificed himself by putting his friends first. He understood how hard they’ve worked to become better people and knew they deserved a shot at proving it. 

In a similar fashion, Janet, a robot, also learned to be human. After more than dozens of reboots, she becomes a super robot that not only knows all the answers to every question in the universe but also starts to understand the human experience. She begins to display human emotions like love (mostly for Jason)  she understands feelings of sadness, happiness, and everything in between, and she has the capacity to put herself in someone else’s shoes. Compassion and empathy are at the core of what makes us human. 

NBC/ The Good Place

Lesson #8 – Frozen yogurt really is delicious

Michael rebooted his neighborhood many times after it seemed to fail, but one thing that was constant was the frozen yogurt shops. Michael put it in there as a form of torture, but let’s be real, frozen yogurt is hardly torture. As Michael explained, humans excel at “taking something and ruining it a little so you can have more of it,” and it may not be ice cream, but froyo is delicious in its own right (fight me).

In fact, the invention of froyo single-handedly proves humans are geniuses and thus, froyo should be eaten and enjoyed in abundance. If there is an afterlife with an unlimited menu of flavors, that’s enough to convince us to be our best selves every single day. When Eleanor confronts Michael about all the froyo shops, he even admits it by replying, “I’ve come to really like frozen yogurt.”

Lesson # 9 – Know when it’s time to let go and move on

In the second to last episode of the series, Ted Danson’s character Michael realizes that he’s fulfilled his purpose. He went from being a demon who tried to innovate the torture experience for humans sentenced to the Bad Place, befriended them, became a better person, and built a new afterlife system with their help to save all of humanity. Initially, he tries to sabotage Vicki from taking his job but eventually accepts that she’s better at it than he is and hands over the reins, which is a key lesson.

Related: The Best Episode of The Good Place Is… “Best Self”

It’s imperative that one understands when their path has run its course, when it’s time to walk away from something that no longer serves them, or when it’s time to find something new and challenging.  Now, Michael is walking into the unknown and not knowing what waits for him on the proverbial other side, which is scary, but it’s also a necessary part of life. As humans, we are constantly reinventing ourselves and searching for our next journey. Sometimes, there’s magic with accepting and “going with the flow.”

Lesson #10 – If it’s meant to be, it’ll be

No, I’m not singing the Florida Georgia Line and Bebe Rexha song, although, it is fitting. I’m talking about trusting that whatever is meant for you will find you. Soulmates don’t exist in the afterlife, but that never stopped Eleanor and Chidi from falling in love and finding each other over and over again after almost 800 reboots. They were meant to be, it was written in the stars, call it whatever you want, but they always found a way back to each other, even if they didn’t have their memories.

At one point, the only thing Chidi was ever sure of was his love for Eleanor. When he made the sacrifice to get rebooted to save all of humanity, it’s because they both believed that they would be reunited again. It’s the very simple idea of trusting what the universe has planned for us and not trying to control your destiny. When Michael was trying to succeed with his neighborhood, he did everything in his power to prevent Chidi and Eleanor from meeting and finding each other and somehow, they always did. Okay, cue the FGL + Bebe song, baby. 

Catch up on all episodes of The Good Place now

Written by: Tommy Czerpak and Lizzy Buczak

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Why The Game of Thrones Theme Song is So Iconic and Good

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Game of Thrones/HBO

Game of Thrones ‘ theme song rules. 

I didn’t even watch the show, but when I hear this song, even I’m thinking, “Oh yeah time for some epic s***!” Ramin Djawadi is an awesome composer (obligatory Person of Interest shout out), and the Game of Thrones theme song is another excellent piece by him.

It follows a standard “epic music” formula to a T.

This isn’t a criticism. Something normally becomes standard because it works, after all, so there is nothing wrong with using patterns that have historically worked to assist you in crafting the mood you’re trying to set.

If you wanted to write a Christmas song, for example, you could throw in some jingle bells. We identify jingle bells with the season, so that’s an easy way to get the spirit of your music across (We purposely saved this article for after Christmas so you wouldn’t go insane suddenly hearing jingle bells in every single song). When it comes to scoring, a clear depiction of the tone you’re trying to set is key.

So how do you write an epic theme song like Game of Thrones? Let’s write one together!

Step 1: Pick three or four standard chords to use, normally starting on a minor chord and moving to major chords before returning to base.

I picked D minor, Bb Major, F Major, and C Major (or i, VI, III, and VII)

 

Step 2: Create an energetic riff outlining the first chord of whatever key your piece will be in, or just play the root of your chord in an energetic syncopated manner ala “He’s a Pirate” from Pirates of the Caribbean

 

Step 3: Write a melody that also outlines your chords, often with quick steps leading into your next chord to give the melody energy, and simply have your bass line play the root of each of your chords. Have a lowkey drum keeping the beat.

 

Step 4: Repeat your melody either an octave higher or by moving upwards to a new key and emphasize the drums.

 

BOOM you have an epic theme song. 

Of course, you can add other supporting melodies and instruments to make it sound even more epic!

 

On top of this basic formula, however, Game of Thrones’  theme does some excellent work to achieve its primary goal in setting the tone.

The decision to leave out brass instruments contributes to the solemness of the series, as brass instruments in pieces like these are often naturally heroic sounding. The chamber choir lends an air of old school medieval church times, giving the song a Godly presence. The mix up of the major chord in the beginning riff also prepares the viewer for unexpected twists in the upcoming narrative. This is excellent storytelling through music all around.

The way it builds on its initial riff (as the melody is basically just the riff at a slower pace) is also smart writing and a brilliant way to make the tune as memorable as possible.

Related: How the Strengths and Flaws of Lost Changed Television

These are the decisions that turn a piece from “generic epic” into “actually epic.” Care and thought matter in a score, and it’s what separates Djawadi from other composers while also allowing Game of Thrones’ theme song to stand out even amongst similar pieces.

The beating drums, the shifts up an octave or into a different key, the orchestration; all these facets contribute to the feel that you’re moving forward and into an epic battle, which is why we feel like something big is about to go down when Game of Thrones starts up.

Game of Thrones’ theme does a particularly great job of conveying that epic feeling. Now if only I had enjoyed the show as much as I do the music.

For other examples of epic songs that follow this kind of formula, check out the pieces below!

  • “He’s A Pirate” Pirates of the Caribbean – Klaus Badelt and Hans Zimmer
  • “Arrival to Earth” Transformers – Steve Jablonsky
  • “Iron Man 3” Iron Man 3 – Brian Tyler
  • “The Avengers” Avengers – Alan Silvestri
  • “Titans Spirit” Remember the Titans – Trevor Rabin
  • “Ben” National Treasure – Trevor Rabin
  • “The Orange Man” Unbreakable – James Newton Howard

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Grey’s Anatomy Review – Help Me Through the Night (16×10)

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Grey's Anatomy Help Me Through the Night Review

Welcome back to the mid-drama chaos. I’m happy to report the hour contained many elements of the original Grey’s Anatomy and successfully balanced the doctor’s personal lives and good ole surgery, finally!

Something that has been lacking in recent episodes.

A majority of the interns were injured after a car came bulldozing into Joe’s Bar and the rest of the doctors scrambled to have enough hands on deck to piece them back together.

Thankfully Weber and Owen came back to Grey Sloan to lend some helping hands. I’m still curious as to how the writers plan on bringing the doctors all back to one hospital. TBD, apparently.

Everyone was struggling to push aside their personal problems to focus on saving the lives of the interns, and it was a success! There were no interns killed in the making of this episode.

What a nice surprise, considering each intern class has had at least one death!

The focus of the episode remained with an important lesson for Bailey. It’s ok to breakdown but never feel alone, because your friends are always there to hug and support you.

Bailey participated in the “surgery will make me forget all my troubles” motto that many of the doctors seem to unhealthily advocate for.

After her unfortunate miscarriage, she tried to hold onto some semblance of sanity while she directed everyone where to help.

The final scene with Meredith, Weber, and Bailey pulled on many heartstrings. They’ve been there together since day one and this scene only strengthened the reminder that they will always be there for each other, even with this sad exit of Alex.

This lesson reverberated to the rest of the doctors as Teddy and Owen finally found their future together and Koracick made amends with the outcome, Jo fell in love with her stolen baby, and the interns stayed strong for each other through their recovery periods.

Teddy and Owen have been on the on and off since Teddy’s first appearance in Season 6. 10 years we’ve had to wait for this loooong drawn-out love story to finally come to a happy fruition.

Owen’s always been scared to officially commit to Teddy, for fear of messing up their strong bonded friendship, but with the help and wise words of Avery, he realized that if he wanted Teddy to be his forever, the forever included the now.

Amelia and Koracick had their possibility of futures with Teddy and Owen ceased and will now have to look for new storylines. Until Amelia reveals her pregnancy truth, she will remain with Link.

Link is no sloppy seconds though, he’s a pure soul who deserves all the kindness in the world after already being left behind my Meredith.

Speaking of Meredith, if you were among those who could not get on board with Merluca have no fear, the Alex replacement might just be there to swoop in.

He’s already received the stamp of approval by none other than Cristina, the other half of the twisted sisters. The lingering gaze Meredith gave toward the end of the night was a dead give away that she already has her eyes shifting from DeLuca.

Now, I can’t write an entire review without touching on the entire travesty of Alex leaving the show. I’m confused by the ease of “Alex is visiting Iowa.”

How are we expected to just believe he’s there visiting his mom for the rest of the show?! Jo’s going through a bout of baby fever while her husband is living in Iowa indefinitely.

This leaves too much of a plot hole. In my opinion, they should’ve at least sent him to another country (Cristina style) or killed him off. These are harsh requests, but they would make a lot more sense than sending him to another state while his wife is continuing a full plotline.

Meanwhile, we were left with a glimpse of Maggie being served, so no she’s not gone entirely. She doesn’t get off that easy, in fact, the lawsuit against her is by none other than her long lost family, so blood isn’t always thicker than water.

What did you think of this midseason premiere? Were you happy with all the revelations and new drama?

Additional Side Notes:

  • Congrats to the newly engaged couple! It only took Owen 10 years to propose to Teddy. Poor Koracick, he really deserves another love interest.
  • I’m surprised more of the other doctors haven’t suffered from broken heart syndrome yet, considering the stress they’ve experienced over the entirety of their time on the show.
  • “Any other requests from the peanut gallery?” Bailey’s back with the quick wit.
  • Helm’s first official love confession to Meredith was so sweet. Now that she’s put out her love request out into the universe, the universe will provide. Finally another lesbian storyline.
  • Teddy’s connection with Casey was an emotional one and really reminded us of the lack of mental health programs and aid for veterans. Something that’s been touched on quite often with the representation of Owen and Teddy.

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