A couple years too late with this, but I just watched the final episode of Angel. Lorne & Lindsey shocked me, and Wesley & Illyria ripped my heart out and jumped up and down on it. The whole thing was great.
Some people seem to think I’m odd for this, but I’ve often preferred Angel to Buffy. It’s not an entirely logical preference. Angel doesn’t have a season comparable to Buffy 5, and the first season is pretty spotty – the first half is very monster-of-the-week oriented.
I think I preferred the different dynamic. While Buffy was very light and fluffy, Angel always walked on the darker side of fantasy. Yes, horrible and dark things happened on Buffy, but they almost always worked out in the end. Even the finale to Season 5 had an uplifting feel to it – Buffy did her part, made her sacrifice, and saved the world. (A lot.)
But Angel didn’t have a lot of happy endings. Just look at the season finales:
Season 1: Evil vampire brought back to life.
Season 2: Buffy is dead. This is a particularly nice contrast to Buffy: After the group’s return from Pylea everyone is happy until they see Willow standing there.
Season 3: Angel sunk to the bottom of the ocean.
Season 4: Probably the most mixed finale. It’s uplifting because Connor finally gets the life he wanted, but at the same time it’s a depressing because of how he got there. Plus they make a deal with the devil and Wesley has to deal with Lilah burning in hell for eternity.
Season 5: My. There are an awful lot of demons, aren’t there?
Angel wasn’t about happy endings at all. It was about fighting the good fight and doing what was right even if there would be no reward other than pain or death. The ending is fitting in that sense: Angel never really knew where his fight would take him, and most of the time he didn’t care. Buffy ended with the Hellmouth destroyed, the First defeated, and Buffy looking forward to the rest of her life. Angel didn’t really end at all. The fight goes on.
Lastly, I think I’ll just say that Wesley is probably my favourite character in all the Wedonverse. I’ll elaborate on that another time.