Friday, December 26, 2008

The 25 Best (and Five Worst) Angel Episodes

**warning- contains spoilers**

Picking the best episodes of "Angel" is even harder than choosing the cream of the crop of its sister show. Even though it boasted some major arcs, it got across a great deal of story and character movement even in its most inconsequential of episodes. But some are just great even by the standards of the show. Below is a list of the finest hours of one of the best shows ever made.

25. Orpheus (4x16)

As great as Faith was in "Buffy," her limited appearances on this show pushed her character farther than she went in a full season. Her return as a recovering villain hell-bent on saving Angel even at the cost of her own life was the true conclusion of her story. The personal risks Faith takes to save the only person who ever believed she could reform is touching and harrowing, and her story provides a nice juxtaposition to the hilarious take of Angel's tortured recollections that forces Angelus to revisit the heroic deeds of Angel, much to the demon's outrage.

24. Waiting in the Wings (3x13)

"Waiting in the Wings" is one of the more unlikely hits of the series, but then when Whedon's name is attached, you shouldn't be surprised by greatness. The neverending ballet serves as one of the better metaphors for not only Angel's struggles but with his budding feelings for Cordelia, which first start to manifest with this episode. It also marks the first TV appearance of future Whedonite Summer Glau. Everyone wins.

23. Spin the Bottle (4x06)

"Angel" was much darker than its parent, which was dark enough as is, but occasionally it boasted moments of pure Whedonesque glee. "Spin the Bottle" stands up to the very funniest of "Buffy's" romps through silliness. Angel turns back into a young adult in the 1700s in the middle of present-day Los Angeles, Fred a timid pothead, Gunn a solitary street warrior, and we get a glimpse back into the early personas of Cordy and Wesley. There are far too many great lines to even begin to list.

22. Underneath (5x17)

An unrelentingly dark look into the hell that is modern suburbia seems like a total aside after the events of the two episodes preceding it, yet it plunges the characters even further towards their inevitable conclusion. It’s hard not to get chills when Gunn takes Lindsey’s place at the end as penance for his role in Fred’s death.

21. Home (4x22)

The end run of Angel’s fourth season seemed hell-bent on ruining everything; it was so bad that Tim Minear came back after a full season off to pen this stunning, wrong-righting finale that moved the show in a completely unexpected direction. The way Wolfram & Hart perverts the Fang Gang’s victory over Jasmine is the first truly sinister thing they’ve done since Season 2.

20. Power Play (5x21)

The episode that finally completes the theme presented in “Reprise:” that in the grand scheme of things good and evil give way to the simple question of power. On the surface level it’s a brilliant exercise in constant misdirection as Angel moves into darker territory before he finally reveals his plan to the team. But the questions it raises about the true evil of the world pushes this over the edge of a fun episode into a classic one.

19. You're Welcome (5x12)

Cordelia’s arc in Season 4 almost made me abandon the show for good. Even in the great episodes of the season the undercurrent of her possession and the acts she commits made me want to throw my TV away. But this one episode rights almost everything by bringing Cordy back for only a fleeting moment to help Angel get his life back together and to send her off in a surprising yet affectionate way.

18. Sleep Tight (3x16)

One of the most Shakespearean hours of TV I’ve ever watched. Not only is Wesley a tragic hero, but Holtz turns into a true villain after a season of moral ambiguity through his subversive manipulation of both Wes and Justine in his single-minded obsession with revenge. The final scenes where Angel can only sit in anguish and Wes lies half-dead in a hospital is perhaps the most haunting moment of the entire series.

17. Sanctuary (1x19)

I’ll be honest, I struggled on whether to include this or its predecessor “Five By Five.” Ultimately, I came down on the side of this because Five By Five contains the bulk of its excellence to its final gut-wrenching scene while this is transcendent throughout. It juxtaposes Faith’s desire for redemption with Angel’s and proves to be one of the most thematic episodes of the series. Oh, and the philosophical discussion that accidentally spawns from a question about a microwave is both deep and hysterical.

16. Deep Down (4x01)

After the insufferably derivative and hollow Season 3 finale “Tomorrow,” Angel needed a rebound to make the ten seconds it took me to switch discs in my DVD player worth it (to say nothing of the poor sods who had to wait months between seasons). Happily, “Deep Down” fires on all cylinders; it presents some of the darkest developments to come along since “Reprise” and rewrites the thematic focus of the show once more to fit the season ahead. Shame that the season itself so completely failed to deliver.

15. Somnambulist (1x11)

Both Buffy and Angel had their share of standalones that were distant from the seasonal arc but still got across a great deal of development, yet this underappreciated gem inserts its character insights so subtly it almost seems like a throwaway. Penn serves to remind Angel (and we the audience) that his past will always come back to bite him and why perfect happiness eludes him.

14. Are You Now or Have You Ever Been? (2x02)

Quite possibly the most richly metaphorical episode of the series, AYNOHYEB? points to the direction Angel would take later in the season via an entrancing series of time jumps and a dark mystery. The main focus of the episode is fear and how people respond to it. Some of the allusions include xenophobia, racism, the Red Scare, and how these fears can influence a mob. The fact that Angel decides to relocate the gang to the site of his most terrible deed (post-soul, of course) is the biggest display of how he always keeps his demons on his mind.

13. I Will Remember You (1x08)

Yes, it’s melodramatic. But people need to stop equating melodrama with bad acting. IWRY is a devastating episode that teases Angel, Buffy, and us with the possibility of happiness before brutally pulling the carpet from beneath our feet. That Angel would sacrifice his chance at a life with Buffy to help her fight down the road is inspiring, and the final moments of their time together is heartbreaking thanks to SMG’s and Boreanaz’s stellar acting.

12. City Of (1x01)

Just about the best pilot you could hope for. It wastes no time introducing Angel and Cordy to this new world and tweaking their characters to fit it while keeping to their established traits, presenting us with a new character (Doyle), and laying down the fundamental themes of the show. The thematic direction of the series shifted often in brilliant ways, but the immobile core was formed here.

11. Destiny (5x08)

It’s been a long time coming, baby. The fight between Angel and Spike gets right to the core of their relationship, and the fight itself is the best in the series. It also tackles what it means to be a hero. The twist following the battle tops the whole thing off with a big laugh.

10. Smile Time (5x14)

Do I really need to explain this? The most brilliantly crazy concept in the Whedonverse (yes, it even beats out Hush and Once More, With Feeling for pure zaniness), “Smile Time” doesn’t have any real emotional highs or lows (apart from the pure elation of Fred kissing Wes at the end), but it’s such a bellyacher that I chuckle just thinking about it.

9. Epiphany (2x16)

The episode that preceded this, “Reprise,” was a cataclysmic affair philosophically and thematically, and “Epiphany” rebuilt the show out of the spectacular ashes. It reverts the themes of the show to those outlined in “City Of” while never backtracking. As terse and brutal as “Reprise” was, the idea of suddenly putting pieces back together in one episode seemed like an avenue to contrivance, but “Epiphany” is every bit as deep.

8. Reunion (2x10)

As I get closer to number one I’m finding it harder and harder to rank these. The number next to “Reunion” says 8, but it’s really tied for third or fourth. Wolfram & Hart gets their biggest victory over Angel by re-siring Darla, and it unleashes a being we’ve never seen before, one neither Angel nor Angelus. Wolfram & Hart were always trying to turn Angel, but they got more than they bargained for here. Though I’ve only watched the series twice, I’ve sat down with this one several times, and I still gets chills when Angel utters “And yet somehow, I just can’t seem to care.”

7. Lullaby (3x09)

I feel that Darla’s arc is somewhat overlooked by many because she was never a title character. However, hers is perhaps the most understated evolution on the show (after Fred's pre-Illyria days, of course), and her decision to sacrifice herself rather than lose her newfound love for her unborn child is deeply affecting. The juxtaposition between this touching selflessness and the cruelty both inflicted on Holtz and the cruelty he inflicts is one of the more cinematic touches of the series.

6. Darla (2x07)

I admit it, I’m a sucker for a Buffyverse flashback (the only ones that are actively bad are the retconning bores in “Heartthrob”), and the crossover smash “Darla” (it syncs up with Spike’s flashbacks in “Fool For Love,” only from Darla’s perspective) features my all time favorite looks into Angel’s seedy past. Equally as exhilarating is Angel’s desperate (and doomed) attempt to save Darla from herself which starts ramping up the show’s penchant for noir moods. This style would hit a high after Darla’s re-siring, but here it effectively builds tension for their plight.

5. Shells (5x16)

In the wake of Fred’s death, the Fang Gang is maybe as devastated as we are, and widens the scope of issues covered by its predecessor. Surprisingly, it packs almost as much emotional impact as AHITW with the revelation that Fred’s soul died with her, proving that Joss' series are so well-written, I can identify with them even on a surface level. Angel and co. took over Wolfram & Hart seemingly without consequence, but this was fate’s way of catching up.

4. To Shanshu in L.A. (1x22)

After a first season of disconnected rambling (which had its pros and cons), Angel stunned us all with an abrupt move into something bigger. Angel finally snaps out of his rut and the revelation of the Shanshu prophecy would loom over much of the rest of the series. Yet, until the fourth season at least, the prophecy never got in the way of the personal tale of redemption. A shockingly epic 42 minutes of television.

3. Reprise (2x15)

“Reprise” is the deepest hour of TV I’ve seen. If the thematic foreshadowing and complexity of Buffy’s “Restless” was a subtle dreamscape, “Reprise” is a sledgehammer to the forehead; it tears down the epic themes of “To Shanshu in L.A.” with the blunt admission that evil can never be triumphed over because it exists even within the good. Tim Minear made his mark with the Beige Angel arc, and here he proves himself to be the finest writer Joss ever hired, and the only one who makes me as excited to spot in the credits as Joss himself. Rarely has a series (much less a single episode) so curtly laid out the nature of the world for all to see.

2. A Hole in the World (5x15)

I’ve never put stock in any awards; most are motivated by a desperate desire for ratings and star coverage and the rest are just the industry’s way of patting itself on the back. Yet the fact that Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker didn’t nab Emmys for their heart-wrenching performances shows just how clueless some people are. It starts out with a hilarious and deceptively insightful debate over Cavemen vs. Astronauts (the answer is astronauts, by the way) and winds up a bleak look into religious fanatics (Knox) and never considering the consequences of our desires (Gunn). For my money this depresses me even more than “The Body” from Buffy's fifth season. Fred was the one character who couldn't be corrupted morally (Gunn even killed for her to keep her from doing anything vindictive), and so it was all the more devastating when this ancient evil corrupted her physically. And it gave people the chance to see what an incredible actress Amy Acker really was (as if the rest of her time as Fred wasn't subtle brilliance).

1. Not Fade Away (5x22)

There are those who view this episode as a cheap cliffhanger, a great first half to an unaired two-part finale. However, it is the truest send-off I have ever seen for any show. The depths the characters steep to in order to go out swinging is astonishing (Lorne’s finale in particular shook me deeply), and the last scene encapsulates everything about “Angel:” the daily, unwinnable struggle against evil. The fights manage to look epic without losing the working man feel of the series, and Wesley's death tore me up even more than Fred's, if that's at all possible. This is, quite simply, the best hour of TV I’ve ever seen.


Honorable Mention

Hero (1x09)

I wanted so badly to add this to the list (and high too), but I just couldn’t leave off any of the others. Doyle was a character who never had the time to win our hearts but did so anyway, and the fact that he sacrificed himself so Angel could keep fighting is a harbinger to Angel’s newfound importance in the wake of the Shanshu Prophecy. However, the cheap Nazi allusions really bring it down, to the point that I just couldn’t put it on the list.



The Five Worst Episodes of Angel

Angel is unquestionably my all-time favorite show, but that does not mean it's perfect. To date the only show I've ever watched with not a single weak episode is "Arrested Development" (I'm not counting short-lived British shows like "The Office" and "Spaced" because their runs are so short), but then that show only ran for 2.5 seasons. However, even though "Angel" doesn't always fire on all cylinders, I had a great deal of trouble coming up with even five all-out bad episodes. Comparatively, I can think of 8 clunkers in "Buffy" off the top of my head, and I still haven't finished going back through the series. So, let us take a moment to acknowledge the lesser moments of a great series.

5. Tomorrow (3x22)

To be honest, the whole end arc of Season 4 pisses me off to no end, but separately they aren’t bad enough to be rank as the worst of the series. But “Tomorrow” was hands down the worst finale of either Angel or its parent show. It squandered so much great lead-up in preceding episodes by falling into the trap of rampantly derivative devices. You’ve got your lack of action, waste of tension, all to set up a cheap cliffhanger that smacks of the absolute worst of TV clichés.

4. The House Always Wins (4x03)

The end run of Season 4 was shittier than the sum of its parts, but this early season clunker provides me with all the ammo I need. It’s a microcosm of all the flaws of the season: the initial awe at the bombast quickly gives way to the realization that the writers are dragging a character through emotionally devastating territory only to act like it’s no big deal and not move the character forward. Of course, Lorne’s story wasn’t half as offensive as the protracted ruination of Connor and Cordy.

3. Double or Nothing (3x18)

When he was a teenager, Gunn sold his soul for a pickup truck. I almost want to stop there. Now he has to pay up, so he breaks up with Fred so he doesn’t hurt her when he dies. On the day that he is going to die. Nice “strategery” Charles. I’m sure Fred will move on in the three hours between breakup and the news of your death. It’s stupid, emotionally vapid, and frankly insulting to both the audience and the characters.

2. Provider (3x12)

I have such a hard time writing anything about this episode. Angel Investigations needs money, so they immediately agree when a group of mysterious creatures offers $50,000 to take Fred back to their place to literally solve a puzzle. Of course, once they have her they plan on doing something stupid with her genius mind and the lesson is that money isn’t as important as friendship. That’s right, we have to sit through a moral normally reserved for a preachy sitcom. Man, why didn’t I spot the huge weaknesses in Season 3 the first time around?

1. She (1x13)

Joss Whedon always prided himself on the fact that "Buffy" never operated in the hackneyed "In a very special of..." style that every other show out there used to drum up ratings. But "Angel" got me worried when I watched this early disaster. In a blatant, heavy-handed metaphor of female genital mutilation, we are forced to endure Bai Ling's Jheira and those young girls she protects. Why? Because they have a mysterious appendage known as the Ko, which drives the males of their species to madness, so they remove it. While I agree that such practice is horrifying and deplorable, so what? Does anyone really NOT think that? It so cheaply smacks you over the head with a message that everyone agrees with anyway that it proves far more abysmal than a piece of filler. It is to TV what “Crash” is to film.

(See also: The 25 Best (and 5 Worst) Buffy Episodes)

74 comments:

  1. You forgot 'The Girl in Question' as the worst episode. The silly Italy episode that had no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

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    1. I agree with a lot of what you're saying here but it could do with more detail. They stayed away in droves.

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    2. Fuck the both of you. ROT IN HELL

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    3. The girl in question is definitely one of the worst episodes in either Buffy's or Angel's seasons. watched it once and whenever I rewatch season 5 i always, ALWAYS, pass over this episode as it's so bad. the only redeeming thing is that we get to see some more of Darla and Drusilla before the series ended.

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  2. I will remember you is my favourite episode of Angel. I agree with you on all of the top 25 episodes except are you now or have you ever been, I know it sets up a mood for the rest of the season and that is the good part of the episode, but I find it kinda boring to watch. Tomorrow is one of my favourite Angel episodes. I think of The House Always Wins and Provider as average Angel episodes, because while they may not have the best plots both of the episodes are hilarious.

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  3. I liked Damage. Mostly for the closing scene.

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  4. In a Hole in the World I thought the Cavemen were the winner..remember the Astronauts did not have weapons.

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  5. Good list! I loved "A Hole in the World" the first time I saw it, but now it bothers me, because it seems like they wait until that episode for Fred to tell Wesley about her feelings, at which point, this being Whedon, you know something's going to happen. I wish they had gotten together a few episodes before this, or even just one.

    Also, I totally agree about "She," but it's worth it for Angel's dance scene. :)

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  6. Michelle - Fred and Wesley did get together in the episode prior to "A Hole in the World". At the very end of "Smile Time". Guess it was just Joss' way of messing with our heads.

    I agree with everything on the "Best Episode" list. Although, there are some sections of "Not Fade Away" that I could happily live without. But, I feel like you really need to add the last ten minutes of "Apocalypse, Nowish" to the "Worst Episode" list.

    Okay, so maybe the age difference between Connor and Cordelia isn't *that* bad, but, to pull a Mrs Robinson on us? That just wasn't nice.

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  7. I disagree with Double or Nothing as one of the worst episodes, it's actually one of my favorites. I find it kind of early Buffy-esque in nature, which is always fun. I love the Buffy-esque episodes of Angel, which is why I love most of season 5. I'm stunned that The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco isn't on the worst episode list.

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  8. Bekkah, I had forgotten that bit. I think a full episode prior would've satisfied, like with Willow and Tara.

    And yes, the "Angel watches Connor and Cordelia boffage" is truly, truly icky.

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  9. I agree with most of the best episode choices, but I'm saddened by the lack of Doyle episodes. What about "In the Dark"? That was one of the greatest speeches Spike has ever given! Not to mention all the complications raised by the Ring of Amara. Or Spike and Oz's cameos.
    What about "Rm w/a Vu?" It had a wonderful little spine tingling twist along with quite a bit of character development for Cordy.

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  10. I agree - "The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco" is definitely among the worst.

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  11. Yeah, the end of "Apocalypse Nowish" almost completely turned me off to the series, I was so pissed off. And I just rewatched it a few weeks ago, (I've been rewatching the whole series of this and Buffy with my wife, who had never seen them) and it still pisses me off. All of the development of Cordelia over the series, and they felt THAT was the best direction to go?

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  12. I think Waiting In The Wings should be much higher, but otherwise, a great list!

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  13. I would put Numero Cinco and The Girl in Question on the list of the best. I found them both wonderfully funny and tragic at the same time. I think The Girl in Question does a great job of laughing at the grand romanticism of Buffy/Angel and Buffy/Spike -- a needed counterpoint to episodes like IWRY, in my opinion. And Numero Cinco I thought was the funniest of the show's various restatements of the basic theme about having to keep on enduring in a world where good never really triumphs.

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  14. The Girl in Question was HILARIOUS! and it's such a good exploration into Spike and Angel's relationship.

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  15. I whole heartedly disagree with litterally everything you said of Season 4. It was far and away my favorite Season of the lot.
    It's scope was epic, it's scale cinematic, and produced by favorite episode ever 'Apocalypse, Nowish'.
    What could have better indicated Wes' fractured mental state, and the twisted nature of his affair with Lilah, than when she dressed as Fred.
    And produced the audiences first bit of sympathy for Lilah, when Wes insisted she 'keep the glasses on'.
    How much more could the ante have been raised than when the plagues hit LA. The scene where the gang have splittered off from one another, and Lorne & Gunn are left alone in the hotel when gets bombarded by dead birds was truly biblical in proportions.
    To say nothing of the actual 'rain of fire' at the end. Chilling.
    It also stood as a masterclass in having the audience physically share Angels emotional state, upon finding his son in bed with Cordy. Just as he felt betrayed, sickened, and horrified by what he saw... so did we!
    It was the finest, best written, almost tangible depiction of 'OMG! The World Is DEFINATELY Ending This Time' I've ever witnessed.
    Not bad for only 42 minutes!

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    1. That was the worst series and episode EVER

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  16. First of all, major love to you for doing an Angel list. I find that Angel frequently gets lost in the shadow of its parent show and, having watched them both when they were still on the air, I can tell you that I loved and love them equally, which most Whedon fans don't.

    I agree that S4 was a mess, but I don't think it was the season as a whole, as much as it was Bizarro-Cordelia in that season. I think her storylines could have been done by a new character instead of nullifying everything that Cordy used to be. I also think very ill of Cordy/Angel. In fact, it grosses me out more than Cordy/Connor.

    Overall, I don't think any season was a waste of time. Even as we lost the true Cordy, we got the AWESOME BADASS Wesley, so that's a reason to rewatch those episodes. Even in weaker standalones, like Expecting and She, you get little gems, little moments that make them worth it, like the opening party in She.

    In regards to The Girl in Question, I think it's a good episode with really, really bad placement in the season. It would have worked earlier in Season 5.

    Major kudos on your pick of NFA as #1. I think it was a better finale than Buffy (and I highly recommend the canonical After the Fall comics that follow...trust me on this!). I would have included Billy, as well.

    Great list!

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  17. I wanted to give a little shout-out to 'Time Bomb'. It contained the moment (Spike's dusting, and then everyone else -) where my heart actually stopped beating.

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  18. Man, that's a lot of nerd rage boiling in the WORST list. You really need to cut out the caffeine and get a life.

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  19. I think "That Old Gang of Mine" was the worst for me. Couldn't believe it didn't crack your worst 5. It's amazing you could pick 25 episodes, I could never narrow it down that much!

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  20. "While I agree that such practice is horrifying and deplorable, so what? Does anyone really NOT think that?"

    um, well, considering that it's still going on in several parts of the world, yes, obviously there are a LOT of people who really do not think that.

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  21. uhm... Apocalypse Now-ish?

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  22. I like Angel (and I must add it is an underated show) and I agree on most of the episodes you picked in the top 25. While it doesn't stand a real chance against Buffy (and I definitely just can't get myself to believe Smile Time is better than OMWF or Hush for that matter), but still I think the show was a great spin-off. I must also point out Darla I think is actually better than Fool for Love having just rewatched both of them recently I was suprised on how great that episode was. But, as I said, my only problem is with the show with exceptions of seasons 1, 4, and maybe 7 BtVS is better than Angel. However, I think AtS is still brilliant.

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  23. You forgot 'The Girl in Question' as the worst episode. The silly Italy episode that had no redeeming qualities whatsoever.
    - Amen to that!

    Any episode where Buffy was mentioned or was in =
    Had no point,guality, reason to exist etc,etc.

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  24. I feel like Awakening should be on the list. Otherwise... Great list! :oD

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  25. Season 5 is my favorite season, mostly because of Spike. The dynamic between Spike and Angel was incredible! I love these two vampires! “The Girl in Question” wasn’t silly – I love this episode – it was so funny. And the answer is Cavemen, by the way. ;)

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  26. Great list. Thanks for putting that together.

    Obviously, everyone has their favorites and least favorites. So, I'll chime in with the only two episodes to me which were obviously horrible:
    * The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco
    * Why We Fight

    The horribleness and awfulness of "Why We Fight" we never ever be forgotten. Even the title offended me because I had just finished watching a a gut-wrenching episode of the same name from the incredible miniseries "Band of Brothers".

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  27. i agree with some of you bicks and others for me a way off

    especially on the best list you're welcome, witw are better then any of the top 10 with maybe the exception of to shanshu in la
    of course i will remember you is tops on my worst list and girl in question was pretty horrible along with the majority of s5 which the majority of s 5

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  28. The worst episode are waiting in the wings,you`re welcome.
    The best episode are city of, i will remember you.

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  29. I didn't mind "Why We Fight" so much as an episode...except that it was just so pointless. After such a powerful episode in "You're Welcome," we get a totally pointless one-off that had no repercussions from the (HUGE) events of the previous episode.

    I think if "Why We Fight" had come earlier in the season (or if we had gotten ANY sort of character reactions on Cordelia's death) it would have fared better.

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  30. Rich L. of New HavenJanuary 15, 2009 at 11:47 AM

    "THE GIRL IN QUESTION"

    Should be in the top 25, it was one of the best showing how Angel and Spike's relationship had grown even though they still admitted that they hated each other. Plus the Italian themes/voices were very funny and even seeing Andrew was good even if it was claimed in "Queen of the Slayers" that he is actually working against Angel and Spike with the help of the Immortal. Andrews reward given by the Immortal is the two beautiful women we see Andrew with at the end as he leaves his hotel. Plus in Queen...it turns out that was really Buffy's hotel room and she is pissed Andrew was using it. Canon...fine, I admit it is not, but it still fills many of the voids (albeit small ones) never filled in by Joss.
    Oh and can anyone please explain the logic in canceling the series "Angel" only to have another vampire series take it's place. I mean what the f... is that all about?

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  31. "girl in question" was such a pointless episode, it didnt even make sense with the plot line. granted, i HATED nina, i just hate any episode where they have angel running off and forgetting his life for buffy. over the 5 seasons, angel seems to grow a huge detachment from buffy and then they randomly throw her in there and it messes everything up.

    although, i hated "i will remember you" i didnt think it was nearly as bad as "the girl in question".

    the best season was season 3 by far. i also really liked "Birthday" and feel like that should have been somewhere on the list.

    "you're welcome" should have been higher as well.

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    1. Although Nina didn't annoy me, Nina and Angel sure did. If she had to be a recurring character, could we focus on the fact that she's a WEREWOLF, instead of her attraction to Angel? Plus him sending her away and acting controlling really sealed the deal on my Angel/Nina hatred.

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  32. Completely agree with everything stated about Buffy wrecking the Angel story arc. Every time they brought her into it Angel did not act like himself, he reverted back to the whiny sad Angel on Buffy. It really hurt his character when they brought her over to his show.

    On another note, I hated "Smile Time" because it was so against everything that I have loved Angel for. Sure, Angel could be funny (I personally LOVE every episode where they are in Pylea) but "Smile Time" was just a way to diminish Angel's character anymore. Season 5 was terrible, except for "You're Welcome" and "Not Fade Away". The whole show seemed to start becoming about Spike and how he annoyed Angel rather then Angel's redemption. If you ask me, they should have brought Cordelia back and traded Spike off. Cordelia was the heart of that show, and Angel was not the same without her.

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  33. Okay, random and unorganized thoughts/opinions from Talia.

    You know, I think I should go back and watch AYNOHYEB, because Joss said it was one of his favorite episodes as well. I just...well, I've only seen it once, and though I do like the (kind of) twist, a great deal of it was just kind of dull to me. Maybe if I was smarter I'd appreciate it.

    I was SHOCKED that on the least favorite five "The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco" was NOT on there. That was, to me, the WORST episode, period. It was like hell on earth. Or, you know, yeah, I'll stick with that analogy. "Why We Fight" had a good overall theme and I guess some good moments, but a good deal of it was also dull, not as thought provoking as it was probably intended to be, and pretty much pointless. As Faith says, I didn't exactly "hug and cry and learn and grow."

    I love the part you mentioned about people wrongly equating melodrama with bad acting, so true and frustrating.

    I LOVED Not Fade Away. It was beautiful, and maybe not this epic finale with the rising music and the battle scenes and the culmination of five years has brought them to this point, and yet in a way it still was. If that makes any sense. It was beautifully understated. And people frankly piss me off who think NFA was a cheap way out, because honestly - and even James Marsters said so on I believe...the talk show with Sharon Osbourne, that they were struggling to wrap together with dignity about a billion different plot seeds that they had discreetly planted that they were planning to use for future seasons. And I love semi-ambiguous endings - maybe 7x22 "Chosen" of BtVS wasn't exactly ambiguous to the point of "this could be horrible or wonderful" but it was by no means all tied together in a neat little package with a pretty bow on top.

    And since other people in comments are remarking about "The Girl in Question" - I have to put my comment in. Yeah, it was an extremely and insanely silly episode, from the writing to the direction to the acting and hey, the slow-mo. But it was hysterical! It was needed and seemed to fit before the heavily-thematic and emotionally draining "Power Play" and NFA. One last silly hurrah, to get some laughs out before making room for the intensity of the next (and last) two.

    I probably have more to say, just to vent, but uh...of the top of my head...

    The episodes that took place in Pylea, I thought, were just beautiful (I've been using that word a lot but hey, it works).

    "Billy" was probably an underrated episode. Seriously disturbing and amazing acting.

    "Destiny" is EPIC. I totally agree - best, best, best fight scene - and it made it so much better that the majority of that time you could see James' and David's actual faces, they were doing mucho much of the work themselves. So cool. I don't think there really is another word for that episode besides "epic," right down to Spike hitting Angel with the huge cross that he was holding. Oh, and fighting with the rebars? AMAZING!

    AHITW was...like a masterpiece. Completely agree with what you said on awards and such, I don't exactly but much stock in them in general, but to think that neither Amy nor Alexis got any sort of recognition was inconceivable to me. The Body, yes, was horrible in its own right, but AHITW is just one of the many examples that goes to show that Joss really knows how to "do" death. It's just one of those episodes where the tiny little things stick out, from the amazing one-shot of Fred's actual death which was stunning, to the absolutely perfect reading of "A Little Princess," which works so well symbolically as well as with the entire feel of the episode and maybe even a duration of the entire series, to the beautiful, beautiful shot of Wesley lying Fred on her bed and being reflected in the mirror. Kind of reminds me of the gorgeous shot from WitW where Wes sees Gunn kissing Fred and his face is reflected in the mirror, just....Well, Joss likes mirrors. Amazing.

    My last comment is to Ryan, which he will inevitably not see, but he posted a comment here anyway and I feel the need to retaliate:

    Ryan: "Man, that's a lot of nerd rage boiling in the WORST list. You really need to cut out the caffeine and get a life."

    Really? "Nerd rage?" Someone may be - appropriately so - called a "nerd" for focusing and analyzing a television show, whatever. I wouldn't take offense to that because being a nerd isn't a bad thing by any means. But to tell someone that they need to "get a life" is unnecessary and pretty horrendous considering that you're telling this person to get a life when in actuality you're the one taking the time to read through someone else's "nerd rage" and then taking the time to bash them about it. It's like, here - let me go read a bunch of people's thought out opinions and critiques and let's unintelligently tear them down and tell them to get a life because -I- myself have nothing better to do. It's people like you that honestly make me scared for humanity in general.

    And on that happy note, thank you for making your list - a very interesting read that made me look at a couple little things very differently. Good thoughts! :D

    It would be cool if you did one similarly for BtVS as well, although if you consider Angel to be the better show then maybe you wouldn't feel as inclined to put the time/thought into making a Buffy related one, but I'd definitely be interested. For me, they're pretty much on the same level, with Buffy coming out a little on top mainly because the general feel of the show gives me the warm fuzzies with pretty much every episode - yeah, even "Beer Bad." But Angel was stunning. Okay, I'm going to quit with the adjectives now, this comment has gone on way too long as it is. But thanks again for posting this!

    Talia <3

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  34. My God, I didn't know anybody read this thing and suddenly there's 33 comments.

    For me Numero Cinco was just too off the wall to hate. Yeah, it's point was nightmarishly dumb, but the whole time I was watching a Mexican wrestler try to fight a demon as was too busy alternating between utter bewilderment and a strange sense of happiness while watching the spectacle. It's not a good episode, but it's watchable. Ditto Why We Fight. And I love The Girl in Question. I disagree with its ordering withing the season, but it was a pure romp and only the stupid Italian W&H CEO pissed me off.

    Talia, I'm going to do a list for Buffy, but I want to finish going back through the seasons (got two left) before I hammer one out. I had one in my head, but I'd like to go back over the last two so I can get a better feel for the standouts of those seasons.

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  35. Season Four of Angel was my favorite. It was entirely unpredictable and left me marveling at the number of different ways one could interpret the sequence of events and their meaning.

    Why is the creepy little girl in Wolfram & Hart's white room one of the five beings charged with maintaining daylight in our world? At what point does Cordelia begin to lose her free will to the "divine" force that eventually manifests itself as Jasmine? Is Cordy at all complicit in any of the horrific acts necessary for Jasmine's birth? If the Powers That Be are really the Powers That Screw You, as Fred says in Season Five, then were all the missions that Doyle and then Cordelia assigned to Angel during the first three seasons simply distracting busywork? Was even Connor's childhood in Q'ortoth orchestrated by Jasmine so that he'd be of an age to father her at the right moment? How many layers and mirrors are there in this plot?

    I love that Joss Whedon and company trust their viewers to be smart, savvy, and patient, to carry details from one episode into the next and beyond so that deep and multilayered arcs can be developed, to indulge in confusion for the sake of inevitable enlightenment, to appreciate and even relish certain ambiguities, and to be open to a dizzying array of metaphysical and philosophical implications that beg to be pondered and discussed at length.

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  36. "Billy" was soo underrated and the way they made Angel seem even more of a hero with him not being able to hurt women because he lost that rage so long ago just made angelus seem even less a part of him. i fell in love with angel even more after that. cordy played such a heroin too, i love her character and this episode explored every side of her, the vulnerability and the strength she had as a woman. she was the best part of the show.

    aside from that, all of the actors were great in that episode, Charisma did such an excillent job, her acting was sooo strong.

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  37. i often wonder about season 4 as well. it was one of my favorite seasons, aside from them destroying everything we ever loved about Cordelia (but they did try their best to fix it in Season 5).

    i always felt like Connor's birth was really the start of jasmine's real start. connor's birth was not really explained at any point (a gift from the powers? a curse? an accident?) i think it took place because jasmine saw the opportunity to come forth when Angel went dark in season 2. then, with the birth, she orchestrated skip to talk cordelia into becoming a demon, (which did save her life but also condemned her to jasmine's wrath). i dont think connor was kidnapped on purpose but i think jasmine saw potential when he came back and then saw making cordelia a higher being as the perfect opportunity to sercure her place in the world without Angel questioning too much before she could be born. Obviously, she counted on Angel's love for Cordelia to make it impossible for him to accept her being evil for a long time. (even when brought to his attention angel seemed to want nothing more then to believe it was anyuone but cordy). even if you dont agree with Angel and Cordelia being "in love" (which i do think is true) you have to admit he loved her on some level.

    i dont think it started back as early as doyle leaving cordelia the visions though, i think jasmine just saw an opportunity and seized it. honestly, if the opportunity came about i think jasmine would have just as quickly used fred or buffy as her way into the world. i refuse to believe that was the one purpose of cordelia.

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  38. using angel's love for cordelia does make a lot of sense on jasmine's part- i agree he loved her in a way so different from buffy because his love for her was mature and came from a friendship rather then infatuation. i never even thought of that before though. i just assumed that jasmine brought connor into the world to ruin angel and cordelia and take the world over. i think connor was the true pawn in all of it.

    separately, i loved the episode "expecting" because it was the first time we really saw cordelia show how much she accepts the friendships of angel and wesley and know she needs them both with her speech at the end.

    i really dislike most of season two. i was getting sick of watching "dark angel" mope around and sleep with darla, i thought angel's character was above that.

    angelus in season four was great though. i missed his character and how he contradicts angel so much.

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  39. I agree with almost everything you wrote. The only strong disagreement I have with what you wrote, is the top all time worst episode of Angel. While I did not like "She" at all, you made a comment about how everyone already thinks this, what Crash is to film, etc. I just wouldn't think that way. Just because you view the world with open eyes DOES NOT mean that everyone does. Even if its become primarily a minority viewpoint... it still exists.

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  40. i wish i agreed with more of your list than i do

    season 4 was not that great of a season because imho it was a total character assassination of cordelia, and the connor/cordelia thing was too sickening. they waited so late to reveal that it was not really cordelia that a lot of people view certain things as cordelia doing them for example the connor shing. if possible season 5 was even more horrid. all the character developemnt had totally flown out the window as soon as angel realized he had never stopped loving buffy i am sorry but they had both moved on. it came from nowhere and made about as much sense as beating a dead horse.
    also i am not sure how iwry is higher on the list than episodes like witw and yw. in all honesty i am not sure how it made the top 25 list. it was just a basic continuation of the previous melodramatic, angst filled 3 years of thier relationship with some cheese and sex thrown in. and how is it that rm w/vu, billy, that vision thing, birthday and hero are not a the best list (all are so much better than the majority of the list). well i guess it is your opinion which are definately entitled to

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  41. Season 1 is my favorite season. I have downloaded all the episodes. To Download Angle episodes i got a wonderful source here.

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  42. I've really thought about it, and while Not Fade Away is pretty much my favorite anything episode, I didn't understand the purpose of Wesley's death. The guy lost the one thing he cared about, and now he was nothing. He said that he wanted to be with Fred, which was immpossible. I didn't get why he died, other than for the sake of a main character dying in the last episode.

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  43. Your list is incredible. I was just thinking how difficult it is to pick the top 5 Angel episodes but it is easier to pick a top 5 of Buffy and you pick 25 brilliant episodes. I have to reserve a special mention for Double or Nothing though. Your words, not mine, "Even though it boasted some major arcs, it got across a great deal of story and character movement even in its most inconsequential of episodes". Overall, it was a bad episode but the way David Boreanaz and Charisma Carpenter acted not only deeply conveyed Angel's loss and Cordelia mourning with him but also portrayed how far Cordelia had come as a character. She truly was the heart of the show. Two more things. One, I would have included Apocalypse Nowish (Rain of Fire). Two, it is fantastic to see someone truly appreciate the show in the same manner that I do. Ps astronauts would win.

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  44. After watching Not Fade Away (at least)five times now, and ignoring the comics, I'm starting to wonder if Joss Whedon was subtly implyng that Lorne was going to commit suicide after what he did. He simply looked destroyed after what happened, maybe he was considering it. What do you think?

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  45. I don't think he was suicidal, just so repulsed by what happened to the Fang Gang after Fred that he didn't want to see any of them ever again. Which, considering Lorne's personality, is more damning in the long run, as normally he'd rather die than be discourteous and wall himself off from people.

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  47. I was cool with all of your ratings until the very last line. Crash is an amazing movie and its about more than teaching people that racism is a no no. Watch it again, open your mind, look at whats going on underneath the racism, because that's what the characters are hiding behind.

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  48. Really love the list. Angel is my favorite show of all-time too.

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  49. Jasmine was all but literally Jesus. Angel killed Jesus in season 4. If you can't appreciate those episodes, you don't deserve to be an Angel fan.

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  50. I would throw Time Bomb on the best list. I think the "everybody gets smoked by Illyria" part was the most shocking and unsettling scene in the series.

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  51. Are you serious? How did you miss the "The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco"?? It's the Angel's "I Robot, You Jane". It's like Boreanaz gave everyone (including the writers and directors) the week off. AWFUL.

    Also, I don't see much here about the terrible way in which they handled Gunn's background from "da hood". There's a few episodes there that are so incredibly offensive in their childish portrayal of "life on da streetz" that it just made me squirm.

    For me, the silly Season 3 arc (bored now -- also, why didn't anyone stop to point out that Angel was REALLY happy at the birth of his son? Like REALLY, REALLY happy), the awful way Gunn was introduced, and the stand-alone episodes of Season 5 (Angel and Spike versus the Nazis... hmmm) were the worst for me.

    The Season 4 arc was fricking amazing, and I don't know why I'm the only person who feels that way. Lol. But there you go. I LOVED the Jasmine arc.

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    1. Hah. You HATED the awesome stand-alone episodes of Season 5? FUCKING DIE YOU SCUM.

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  52. Damn, thinking about all this stuff makes me want to watch it all again :-D

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  53. I just about agree with this entire list. I don't quite loath season 4 as some people here do, but it is the weakest of the series (mostly due to Vincent Kartheiser's (Connor) abysmal performance).

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  54. I honestly don't think that Kartheiser was to blame. Angel simply became Joss' least-invested show that year: he was trying to get Firefly off the ground and dealing with the nightmare at Fox, and he was also wrapping up Buffy. He didn't devote himself to the season, and it really showed. I think the writers had to deal with Carpenter's pregnancy, and they did so by sacrificing the one character who had yet to be formed (Gunn, Wesley and Fred all go through fantastic arcs in the fourth season, and I'd rather them continue to improve than one of them have to be brought down to find some way to handle the problem). I'm much sadder that Cordy was so viciously ruined, in a way that wouldn't be matched until Lost kept Terry O'Quinn for the last season but supernaturally altered his entire character into something else and unworthy.

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  55. I also think the criticism of Kartheiser makes even less sense in light of his performances in the last season of Angel and in Mad Men.

    I agree with a lot of this list. "Beige" Angel is probably my favorite story arc, followed by a lot of season 5. I think they do the best job of getting to the kernel of what the show was always about (something often lost sight of during the long season 4, even though I loved it while it was on the air).

    Also, I love that two years later, this thread is still active. Good analysis.

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  56. #13, I will remember you;

    For me it was the Happiest and Saddest Episode of Angel.
    It was a roller coaster of emotions, and I really loved it.
    But at the same time I was really sad.

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  57. Spike: She's a monster now.
    Angel: She's an innocent victim.
    Spike: So were we, once upon a time.
    Angel: Once upon a time...

    From the closing scene of "Damage". Among the most memorable dialogues.

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  58. I got an entirely different feel from Double or Nothing. It's a shame, because it would've been an awesome plot line...

    On first watching, with Fred acting almost smothering towards Gunn, and his harsh retributions, and later is very jokey "I sold my soul for a pick-up truck"... I thought the transaction was more recent than he claimed, and was more like "for the love of Fred".

    Considering how anticlimatic the Wesley/Fred/Gunn triangle was, I thought it'd be an awesome twist... then I realised I was reading too much into it... too bad.

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  59. What a great list!! I totally agree with #1, although I might list "The Body" as the greatest hour of TV. Where Buffy was stuttering during the last season, Angel was going strong and getting better. Not Fade Away was perfect, and Wesley's death was the saddest of the entire Whedonverse.

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  60. What about why we fight season five angel sent to get a sub which has spike on it and sires the kid jus very good episode I was shocked it wasn't on ur list for best and harms way not making top five worse whats up with that

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  61. 'She' was grotesquely bad. It's only saving grace is the dance scenes at the beginning and the end of the show; you might as well fast-forward through the interdimensional FGM asian model stuff.

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  62. I can't choose any bad episodes of Angel. Maybe because I watched them all in a row so I didn't even notice when one episode ended and another started. For me Angel is just one big episode and I loved every single episode of it!

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  63. I think The Girl in Question was a GREAT episode, while definately the worst is el numero cinco. I just did not find anything redeeming about it at all. And who can hate I will remember you or spin the bottle? Classics...

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  64. The weirdest thing is that, in rewatching Season 4 I'm reminded of just how much I hated the Evil Cordy arc; and yet those episodes are among my favorites. Orpheus, at least for me, would've been higher on this list. I also liked Salvage; I've got a weakness for Buffy crossovers.

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  65. I enjoy reading through your article post, I wanted to write a little comment to support you and wish you a good continuation All the best for all your blogging efforts.

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  66. I miss this show so much, once David and sarah get off from the shows they are doing they should come back and do some more later on with sombody funding them. I know spike wouldn't work because he has gotten alot older, David looks the best atm. They should do another short series taken after the place of the comic series to get more people interested in both the comic series and the whole series itself. They just need to find sombody to fund the project.

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  67. I like the list but isnt it in the season 2 episode called reunion that holland from wolfram and hart who says, "And yet somehow, I just can’t seem to care.” instead you mention Angel utters it. holland doesnt care about innocent people dying from the massacre that dru and darla are about to embark.

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    1. no he says it at the end as well

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