THE CHALLENGE: Binge-watch and review every season of Buffy to celebrate Dark Horse Comics' release of "Buffy Season 10" on March 19 and "Angel and Faith Season 10" on April 2. So far we've done:
Buffy Season 1 (and an overview of why we love Buffy)
Buffy Season 2
Buffy Season 3
Buffy Season 4
Angel Season 1
Buffy Season 5
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Angel Investigations deals with the loss of their offices and their sophomore season. And with Angel's sire and original love of his life Darla brought back to life by Wolfram and Hart, his world gets turned upside down and he goes all ultra-broody, even including temporarily firing Cordelia, Wesley, and Gunn.
One of the true pleasures of life was watching Buffy and Angel back to back on Tuesday nights. While Season 1 of Angel employed lots of crossovers with Season 4 of Buffy, this season had thematic crossovers. So the Buffy episode "Wild at Heart" continues its story, albeit from Angel's point of view, in "Darla." While both episodes stand on their own, there is some added value from watching them back to back (coincidentally, this is how I've been doing these binges-- with back to back Buffy and Angel. I highly recommend this).
This season will also always have special meaning in my life, as my wife (who was at that time my fiance) and I argued about, then later bonded over, the episodes "Through the Looking Glass" and "There's No Place Like Plrtz Glrb." Having never seen Angel or Buffy before, she complained about the cleavage-showcasing outfit Cordelia was wearing, leading us into a far-ranging conversation about feminism and television. Only 6 months later we were married and she was anxiously awaiting the next time Angel would take his shirt off.
Highlights: Angel during the Red Scare. Darla. Angel obsessing over Darla. Angel trying to go through the tests to save Darla's life. Drusilla showing up. Darla and Drusilla's "shopping spree." Angel tells a room full of lawyers he just can't seem to care about their fate. Angel going super broody and then the "Epiphany" episode after hitting rock bottom. Harmony shows up in LA and no one knows she's a vampire. "The Host" who we find out by the end has the name of "Lorne" but who my roommates and I just called "Flamboyant Karaoke Demon" for most of the season.
Lowlights: Zombie cops. A physicist who is trying to freeze time. Really, most of the second half of the season. The first half of the season is so good with the overarching storyline, once that's over and Darla is out of the picture, the season starts dragging through a series of "monster of the week" episodes, which are mostly hit or miss. Until the last few episodes when they try to look for Fred and end up in Lorne's dimension.
"Are You Now or Have You Ever Been?" Episode 2.2
Angel looks for new digs for Angel Investigations, coming upon the vacant hotel which he stayed at during the Red Scare of the 1950s, allowing a paranoia demon to make all of the residents of the hotel turn on one another. I love how this episode both gives us details on what Angel was up to for at least part of those years between when he was cursed with a soul and before he ended up in Sunnydale. The fact that the HUAC hearings are playing in the background of several scenes underlines how fear makes us do irrational and hateful things. And the fact that Angel makes a lot of wrong and selfish decisions, despite having said soul, foreshadows a lot of what will happen later in the season with Darla. Also, could you choose a cooler home base than a sweet art deco era hotel?
7 out of 10
"There's No Place Like Plrtz Glrb," Episode 2.22 guest review by Specbot
I love it when shows take risks. "Angel" never shied away from going to dark places, but the three episodes that closed out Season 2 took the show to a place I never expected: the genre of high fantasy. It's refreshingly light considering where "Angel" went in the following seasons, with Lorne surviving his decapitation, Joss Whedon guest starring as the dancing Numfar (technically in the previous episode, but it's such an awesome thing that I thought it was worth mentioning), Groo, Fred returning to LA mostly sane, and Angel's car travelling through portals, it's just a fun episode. In fact, it's one of the rare ones that make you feel really good in the end. At least it would be, if it weren't for that last second twist when they return to the hotel, see WIllow, and Angel realizes, "It's Buffy." A harsh reminder that the two shows shared a universe.
7 out of 10
Overall rating for Season Two: 7 out of 10 The first half of the season was like 8 or 9, then it lost its way for a while after Darla left. But once they went to Pylea, it got interesting again. Also, any time there is karaoke singing, I'm in.