To push my point just a little bit more, I’ve picked my top ten canon-worthy moments from the series. These are the moments that were so awesome, so heartbreaking, or so perfect that I could hear the actors saying the words in my head. These were the moments that made me hopeful that someone would hear my wishes and green-light an animated feature version… even if it were straight-to-DVD! This is my case for why Angel: After The Fall deserves to be canon.
-Bryant the Comic Book Slayer
1. Angel Skips Slaying The Dragon And Makes Friends, Instead
In the last moments of Angel Season Five, Angel and his crew have thrown down the gauntlet with the demonic and inter-dimensional law firm, Wolfram & Hart. When Wolfram & Hart sends a Lord of the Rings-style army, including a dragon, to crush the vampire and his friends, Angel grins and comments on how he’d like to slay the dragon before he dives into the fray. While we never see Angel’s attempt to do his knightly duty, when Lynch’s Angel: After The Fall opens with our vampire riding a dragon, we quickly learn how the dragon had also been manipulated by the evil law firm, and how five minutes into the alley battle, the dragon and Angel put aside their differences and teamed up. And, that’s how Angel got his very own dragon. How cool is that? Lynch seems to have mastered the art of the trademark Whedon undercut, and the dragon serves as a great example. Who would’ve thought that one of the most terrifying foes from the Angel series finale would become his constant companion. As if this wan’t all canon-worthy enough, the deal is sealed when Angel finally shares the name of his scaly friend: Cordelia.
2. Gunn Reveals His New Nightmare
One of the truly bad-ass moments of After The Fall is the revelation that Charles Gunn didn’t die in the alley battle with Wolfram & Hart. Instead, Gunn’s worst nightmare comes true, and his is turned into a vampire, becoming the major villain of After The Fall. As any faithful Angel fan knows, this is especially painful for Gunn, given his past with vampires and the death of his sister. While Gunn attempts to remain who he is and find a way to get Los Angeles out of the Hell dimension Wolfram & Hart had sent it to, his actions are twisted by his lack of a soul, the demon inside him, and some not-entirely-accurate visions sent courtesy of the evil law firm. Gunn’s vampire arc is tragic, painful, and powerful. He’s a force to be reckoned with in After The Fall, and it’s a shame J. August Richards never had the chance to play this addition to the role… especially that part where Gunn fought Angel with a flaming sword as Hell fell apart around them. So awesome!!!
3. Wesley Moves On… To His New Position At Wolfram & Hart
Wesley’s death ranks as one of the top tearjerking moments in the entire Angel series. Anyone who knows Joss should’ve known that the pain wouldn’t end there. In a truly poignant and perfect twist, Lynch and Whedon have Wolfram & Hart use the same dirty trick they did on Wesley’s former flame, Lilah Morgan, and employ the fine print in Wesley’s contract to force him to fulfill his work obligations even if he’s beyond the grave. Non-corporeal, much like Spike in his early Angel Season Five days, and forced to wear an outfit and glasses reminiscent of his days as Watcher, Wesley endures the humiliation and torture of being the law firm’s puppet as he also does his best to help Angel set things right. It’s the perfect end chapter for this fan favorite character.
4. Angel Finally Becomes Human… At The Worst Possible Moment
Since Season One, Angel has longed for the possibility that, one day, he’d have the chance to be human again. In their twisted way, Wolfram & Hart deliver Angel’s wish. When Los Angeles is transported to Hell by the law firm, Angel finds himself on top of the roof of a building looking down as innocent civilians are being attacked by the new inhabitants of their city. Our hero springs into action, making an in-human jump from his perch to the ground below. All is going swell until Angel realizes his heart is beating two seconds before his impact with the ground shatters his spine and legs. After months of supernatural healing, Angel’s humanity provides an interesting obstacle throughout After The Fall, as our hero attempts to keep this massive weakness a secret from his friends and enemies, and also not secretly bleed to death.
5. Angel Learns The “Truth” About The Shanshu Prophecy
While the Shanshu prophecy has always been shrouded in mystery and had many vague conditions, one clear part of the deal (along with the whole becoming human thing) was that a vampire with a soul would play a crucial role in the “final battle.” Which side he’d be fighting for, good or evil, was less clear. While Wolfram & Hart’s gifts are always suspect, they do provide Angel with a clear vision of the “final battle” which shows our vamp hero in a massive field of bodies, covered in the blood of his fallen opponents. Apparently, he won’t be Angelus when it happens, but he’ll still be playing for the morally questionable team. Angel is crushed by this. For so long, the Shanshu was his light at the end of the tunnel. But, if nothing we do matters… you Angel fans should know the rest.
6. Illyria’s True Form Returns
As part of Gunn’s plan, Illyria is pushed to the brink and reverts to her original and gigantic demonic form. Seeing the cthulhu-like demon unleashed upon a city scape is thrilling, and watching her strike down beloved characters is heart-breaking, but the fall of Illyria really hits in an unexpected way and makes the whole scene a canon-worthy addition.
7. Conner (And Many Beloved Others) Bite The Big One
There are many painful deaths in After The Fall. Lynch and Whedon both knew that Angel works best when it’s dark and epic, and they didn’t hold back when it came to the body count. (Both Groo and the dragon were surprisingly painful.) The moment that was easily the roughest, though, was watching Angel hold his bleeding, dying son in his arms. Over the course of After The Fall, Connor was written as more like his persona in Angel Season Five, and a number of fans warmed up to him significantly. This made it only more painful to lose the character and watch our hero lose his son.
8. Los Angeles, Post-Hell
Once Angel forces Wolfram & Hart to pull Los Angeles out of Hell, it becomes clear that, while no time has passed, everyone remembers the events that took place in Hell. This not only synched up well with the pro-vamp world present in the Buffy Season Eight comic, but provided a new and exciting shake up for follow-ups to After The Fall. While characters like Gunn and Gwen were left to deal with the depressing memories of their actions, Angel becomes a city-wide hero, and, in a Lynch-written follow-up, a blockbuster film of the events that took place in Hell is produced by Hollywood with Nic Cage as the lead. I don’t know what’s better: the Last Angel In Hell film or the fact that Angel and Spike sneak into Comic-Con to get a sneak peek at the film’s panel!
9. The Burkel-Wyndham Pryce Memorial Wing Of The LA Library
Because they deserve it.
10. Spike & Angel’s Bromance Matures… Just Enough
While Spike and Angel’s chemistry was wonderful in Season Five, it was clear that there were still miles to go with the characters and how they could relate, how they would conflict, and how they could grow. Watching Spike and Angel earn respect for one another is one great element of After The Fall. Though, I can’t say that necessarily holds up as the events of Twilight drive them apart in the end of Buffy Season Eight (and no, I don’t mean the sparkly vampires from Washington, but I’m sure Spike and Angel disagree over that, as well).