"City Of" is the series premiere of the television series Angel. Written by co-creators Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt and directed by Whedon, it was originally broadcast on October 5, 1999 on the WB network.
Angel (David Boreanaz) was a character in the first three seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Angel was a soulless, immortal vampire; he became legendary for his evil acts, until a band of wronged Gypsies punished him by restoring his soul, overwhelming him with guilt. In the third season finale, Angel leaves to go to Los Angeles to fight evil on his path to redemption. He meets Doyle (Glenn Quinn), who is sent visions by the Powers That Be about people whom Angel is supposed to rescue from danger. Acting on Doyle's first tip, Angel encounters Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter), who has also moved to L.A. to escape Sunnydale (where Buffy the Vampire Slayer takes place). Cordelia convinces Angel that she, Angel and Doyle should start up an agency to help people having supernatural or demonic problems.
Angel drunkenly slumps at the bar of a dive in downtown Los Angeles, growing maudlin about an unnamed girl, when he notices three guys leave the bar with two girls, Janice and Laura. Sliding seamlessly from blithering to dangerous, his drunken facade fading, Angel unobtrusively follows them out. In the dark alley, Angel kills the three men,who are revealed to be vampires. One of the frightened girls, Janice, bleeding from a minor head wound, tries to thank their rescuer, but Angel warns them harshly to get away from him, and strides down the dark alley.
Angel makes his way to his new home, a basement apartment beneath a ground floor office, where he finds Doyle waiting for him. Doyle introduces himself, explaining he's half human, half demon, then recaps the story of Angel's life, ending with his recent, painful breakup with the Slayer and his subsequent move to L.A.. Doyle explains that Angel's isolation, combined with the fact that he recently drank human blood, puts him at serious risk of relapse. Doyle gets visions from The Powers That Be (accompanied by debilitating headaches) regarding people whose lives Angel must touch; true redemption lies not just in saving lives, but in saving souls as well. Doyle concludes by handing over a scrap of paper on which he's jotted info about a young woman named Tina. When Angel asks why Tina needs him, Doyle replies that getting involved in her life enough to figure that out is Angel's first order of business.
Angel finds Tina during her shift and manages to persuade her to meet him after work. Waiting by his car, Angel is surprised to see her in elegant evening dress, and even more surprised when she pulls pepper spray from her purse. Tina accuses Angel of being employed by someone named Russell, but he slowly convinces her to accept his offer of a lift to the "fabulous Hollywood party" she plans to attend. When they arrive, Angel runs into Cordelia Chase, whom he last saw at her graduation ceremony at Sunnydale High some months earlier. After a short chat, Cordelia leaves, saying that she need to be talking to "people that are somebody". Angel, slightly offended, walks away saying that "It's nice to see that she's grown as a person." Angel sees a man harassing Tina and asks about him. She tells him that he's Stacy, a creep and says that she would like to leave. On their way into the parking garage, Angel fights off Stacy and his goons.
Meanwhile, in her dingy apartment, Cordelia hangs up her one dress and nibbles purloined canapes while listening to her talent agent's discouraging phone message. After Tina falls asleep, Angel spends the night on the public library's computers, searching for information about Tina's friend Denise, who disappeared after becoming involved with Russell. The next morning, Angel tells Tina he believes her friend Denise was murdered. As she listens, Tina suddenly spots Doyle's note listing her name and workplace, and, convinced afresh that Angel has been running some scam for Russell, panics and runs. Angel tries to grab her at the building's entrance, but sunlight burns his hand, causing him to vamp reflexively. In stark terror, Tina flees.
Russell finds Tina when she returns to her apartment to pack. She allows herself to be drawn into his arms; however Russell is actually a vampire and bites her. Angel races to the rescue, only to find Tina beyond his help, marks of vampire predation livid on her throat. Russell meets with a young lawyer from Wolfram & Hart to discuss his airtight (fictitious) alibi in the matter of Tina's unfortunate demise, and orders the lawyer to bring him Cordelia, whom he has selected as his next victim.
Angel tracks down Stacy and interrogates him until he reveals Winters' location, then persuades a reluctant Doyle to help him avenge Tina's death. Excited by her limo ride to meet the Russell Winters, Cordelia is impressed by his ornate mansion. After the butler ushers her into Russell's den, Cordelia promptly spills the story of her life to her seemingly sympathetic host - until she notices the unusually heavy drapes and lack of mirrors, and concludes aloud that Winters is a vampire. Winters vamps and reaches for Cordelia, who pivots toward the door. Angel has scaled the wall at Winters' estate, and blown out a junction box, causing the lights to go out just as Russell captures Cordelia at the top of the stairs. Shielding Cordelia with his body, Angel takes several bullets from Winters' guards as he picks her up and jumps over the rail to land in the foyer below. Evading more gunfire, they stagger out to the convertible and Doyle squeals them all away. At the apartment, Doyle extracts bullets from Angel's torso while Cordelia dresses the wounds.
The next day, Angel stalks into a top floor conference room at Russell Winters Enterprises, where Winters is conducting a meeting with his reps from Wolfram & Hart. Not impressed by Winters' claim that he can do whatever he wants in L.A., Angel asks the CEO if he can fly, then forcefully kicks his executive chair through the floor-to-ceiling windows. Exposed to direct sunlight, a screaming Winters bursts into flame and disintegrates to dust in mid-air. The chair, scorched and empty, smashes to the sidewalk below. As Angel calmly departs, the young Wolfram & Hart lawyer uses his cell phone to report that, although the Senior Partners needn't be disturbed just yet, there seems to be a "new player in town."
Back at home, Angel despondently calls Buffy, but when he hears her voice, hangs up without speaking. Later, Cordelia proposes that the three of put a sign out front and go into the business of saving souls as a team—at least until her "inevitable stardom" materializes. Doyle observes many people in L.A. need help and asks Angel if he's game. Angel stands alone atop a skyscraper, looking out over the bustling L.A. nightscape, and responds, "I'm game."
The vampire prosthetics (excepting Angel's) were a newly-created prototype design for this episode, as the production team wanted to try a darker, scarier look. However, they were unhappy with the effect, and soon returned to Buffy-style vamp-faces.
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 the point of the episode, as it shows how Angel is struggling in his goal of redemption, it was ultimately cut. "It was dark enough that he didn t save this girl," says supervising producer Tim Minear. "I don t think you needed him licking her dead body." A similar scene occurs in flashback in Season Four, where Angleus reveals this caused Angel to revert to the pathetic state he is in when Whistler encounters him eating rats in 1996.
Christian Kane, who plays the unnamed lawyer later known as Lindsey McDonald, was close friends with David Boreanaz before joining the cast of Angel. "It was the first time David and me ever got to act together and there was just a chemistry," Kane recalls. "He was a badass and I was trying to be a badass and that right there was just a defining moment. You could tell the tension but you could also see the easiness of how we just flowed into each other. It's very easy to act with Boreanaz and I think he feels the same with me."
- David Boreanaz as Angel
- Charisma Carpenter as Cordelia Chase
- Glenn Quinn as Allen Francis Doyle
- Tracy Middendorf as Tina
- Vyto Ruginis as Russell Winters
- Christian Kane as Lindsey McDonald
- Michael Mantell as Oliver Simon (uncredited)
- Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers (flashback)
- Jon Ingrassia as Stacy
- Renee Ridgeley as Margo
- Sam Pancake as Manager
- Josh Holloway as Good Looking Guy
- Gina McClain as Janice
- When Angel asks Doyle, "Why me?", Doyle's reply—that the "balance sheet" isn't exactly in Angel's favor—thumbnails the main theme for the entire series. When Angel next asks, "Why you?", Doyle replies, "Well, we've all got something to atone for." Angel follows up on this lead-in to Doyle's history in "Rm w/a Vu", and Doyle makes good on his promise to open up in "Bachelor Party" and "Hero".
- Meeting up with Cordelia at Margo's party, Angel explains that "there's not actually a cure" for vampirism. In fact, before the year is out he discovers that there exist at least two cures, a Mohra demon's Blood of Eternity ("I Will Remember You") and a summoning ritual recorded in the scrolls of Aberjian (To Shanshu in L.A.). Cordelia herself, in varying states of consciousness and corporeality, is an integral part of Angel's life for the rest of the series.
- This is the first introduction to Wolfram & Hart, the powerful law firm (fronting for its Senior Partners) that becomes Angel's primary opponent. Though not named until "Five by Five", Lindsey McDonald is the "smart young lawyer" who provides legal and business representation for Russell Winters. In future episodes and seasons, Lindsey becomes one of Angel's most insidious rivals.
- This episode contains the first mention of The Powers That Be.
- Besides Angel himself, Lindsey McDonald is the only character to appear in both the first and last episodes of the series.
- Crossover with Buffy: At the end of this episode, Angel phones Buffy but hangs up as soon as she answers. Buffy's side of the call is shown in "The Freshman", which aired immediately before this Angel episode.
- Doyle is the second of three demon guides sent to Angel by The Powers That Be. The first is Whistler, in season two of Buffy ("Becoming, Part One"), who sets Angel irrevocably on the path to his destiny. The third is Lorne (initially known only as The Host), who takes the place of The Oracles beginning in season two of Angel.
- That one of Angel's first acquaintances threatens him with pepper spray in the Angel premiere, "City of" recalls Buffy's response to one of her first acquaintances in the Buffy premiere, "Welcome to the Hellmouth". On Buffy's first day at Sunnydale High, she and Willow are planning a study date, when they are joined by Xander and Jesse. Xander returns a stake that had fallen from Buffy's bag earlier that morning, and speculates that she intends to use it to build a "really little fence." Buffy nervously laughs and tells the group that everyone in L.A. uses stakes for self-defense, because "pepper spray is just so pass ." Willow and Xander, of course, go on to become Buffy's lifelong friends. Jesse, however, constitutes Buffy's first personal loss in her mandated battle against evil in Sunnydale. This becomes especially poignant in light of events that take place in the second episode of the two-part premiere, "The Harvest", because it is Jesse whom Buffy seeks when Angel himself tries to stop her from going for the first time into Sunnydale's vampire-infested sewers. And it is Jesse to whom she refers as a "potential friend," an insight that persuades Angel to change his mind and provide the Slayer with information vital to her search. Neither of them mentions the likelihood that it is already too late.
- When Cordelia greets Angel at Margo's party by asking if he's still "Grrr," she further verifies that Angel is not there "to bite anybody," i.e., that he's not currently Angelus. First aware that Angel is a vampire during season two of Buffy ("Halloween'), Cordelia (along with the rest of the Scooby Gang) finds out a couple of months later ("Innocence") that Angel's alter-ego, Angelus, is very "grrr" indeed. Self-involved as she is, it nevertheless speaks to Cordelia's ability to discern between Angel and Angelus, as well as to her implicit trust in Angel, that she is confident enough to drop the subject entirely when Angel assures her, "No, I just gave a friend a ride."
- At the very beginning of the opening credits there is a shot of a woman standing alone on a street, which was a shot first seen in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode: Anne.
- Batcave: Doyle's comment refers to Batman's secret hideout beneath the mansion of his alter ego, Bruce Wayne. This pilot episode in particular makes many allusions to the fictional hero, Batman, who uses gadgets and frequents the tops of tall buildings as he fights against dark forces operating in his own alpha world city, Gotham.
- Billy Dee: When Doyle grows parched from all his "yakking" about Angel's history, he cajoles his audience into going out to purchase the alcoholic beverage known as Colt 45, obliquely referring to its popular ad campaign featuring Billy Dee Williams of Star Wars fame. This could conceivably constitute one of the numerous Star Wars allusions reputed to populate the Buffyverse.
- Missoula: Tina tells Angel a lot about herself by mentioning she hails from the second-largest city in Montana. With a population more than 50 times less dense than L.A., Tina's hometown is much farther away culturally than geographically from the second-largest city in the U.S. An innocent country girl at heart, Tina prefigures all the victims Angel hopes to save, but she herself is unable to survive in the wilds of L.A.
The Depression: Angel tells Tina a lot about himself by mentioning he passed through Missoula more than 60 years earlier, but, fortunately for him, she has no idea that he's speaking literally.
Vikings: Doyle tries to bow out of Angel's assault on Winters' mansion because he has some "fairly large coin" riding on that night's pro football game. Angel disregards Doyle's protests, but uses that datum—that the Vikings are playing—to lull the guard at Winters' gate with false camaraderie. Angel plays the mook again in Sense & Sensitivity.
Vietnam War: When he tells Doyle he's lived through 14 wars, Angel doesn't count Vietnam because the U.S. "never declared it."
In his essay on music as narrative agent, Matthew Mills points out how the theme used for the character of Angel is used multiple times in this episode, at different tempos and by different instruments. When Doyle first offers Angel a chance of redemption, his theme starts but does not end; its "incompleteness mirroring Angel's inability to answer Doyle's question". When Angel finally accepts Doyle's challenge at the end of the episode, his theme plays with a "brief respite from minor tonality" to underscore his newfound determination.
Reception and reviews
This episode was one of the highest rated episodes of Angel ever, scoring a 6.2 overnight Neilsen rating.
Salon.com cautiously praised Angel for merging the two genres - film noir and the superhero graphic-novel - that best showcase Angel's "wounded, night-crawling loner mystique", but worried that Angel's new mission was overly sentimental: "Is the show going to turn into Touched by Angel?"
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