Skip to main content

Every Season of ‘Angel’ Ranked Worst To Best

Helping the helpless is the name of the game.

Team Angel standing in the alleyway getting ready for battle in the Angel series finale

Spin-offs don’t always hold a candle to the series they spawn from, but thankfully Angel carved its own path from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The series, which ran for five seasons from 1999-2004, has its own noir-ish vibe, which is complemented by David Boreanaz’s performance as Angel, the vampire with a soul. Angel follows our titular vamp as he moves to Los Angeles, where he sets up shop as a private detective. He’s joined by fellow BtVS alum Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter), Wesley Wyndam-Pryce (Alexis Denisof), and (in the final season) Spike (James Marsters). There are also incredible new characters that you will only get to know by watching Angel. Some fans consider it the darker, more adult Buffy-verse series, although many disagree.

Angel as a series isn’t without its faults. Recent revelations about creator and producer Joss Whedon’s toxic behavior complicate the show’s legacy, especially his treatment of Charisma Carpenter. Still, the series remains a fan favorite, with writing and performances that stand on their own. So let’s take a look at our favorite seasons, from worst to best.

5. Season 1

sarah michelle gellar, david boreanaz, eliza dushku angel
20th Century Television

The first season of any series is either middling or the best season of the show. Angel‘s first season falls more into the middling category for me. There’s a lack of cohesiveness because the show didn’t initially know what it wanted to be. And sure, there are some gems like the episodes where Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) or Faith (Eliza Dushku) appear. But other than that? It’s a mostly forgettable first season, and it’s not a joy to rewatch in the slightest. Unless you pick and choose the best episodes (the list isn’t too long if you really think about it).

4. Season 4

Jasmine talking to Angel in Angel Season 4
20th Century Television

I understand why anyone reading this might think I’m ludicrous for not having Angel season four at the bottom. The Cordelia storyline is horrendous (as was Carpenter’s treatment by Whedon) which puts an extreme damper on season 4 as a whole. There are funny episodes, and interesting narrative choices, such as bringing Angelus back for a brief period. Everyone does their best in this somewhat chaotic season with too many storylines. But for the most part, it’s not a season that’s remembered fondly. Jasmine (Gina Torres) isn’t the villain that you might expect, but the series ultimately squanders Torres’ potential. The ending sets up season five perfectly though.

3. Season 2

Team Angel tied up in Pylea in Angel season 2
20th Century Television

The second season is when Angel gains traction and becomes a show to really love. The reintroduction of Darla (Julie Benz) is the right type of chaos, and the overall rollercoaster Angel experiences as a character is *chef’s kiss*. Team Angel goes through really hard times as a group (even after their brief separation) which proves necessary later on. Overall, season 2 wouldn’t earn an eyebrow raise if you said it was your favorite. And Cordelia’s Pylean princess outfit and short-lived reign are still iconic.

2. Season 3

Angel and the crew looking at his and Darla's baby through an ultrasound in Angel season 3
20th Century Television

Angel season three includes a vampire pregnancy, people hellbent on revenge, betrayal, and relationship realizations. Oh, and Cordelia becomes a higher being. All of that might sound like a recipe for disaster, but it’s the exact opposite. Angel becoming a father changes the show’s dynamic moving forward and Darla’s sacrifice is one of the most poignant moments in the series. Everything comes together and unravels so perfectly by the end of the season. And certain characters go through major transformations that remain until the end of the series. It’s a near-perfect season of Angel and I’m sticking to that!

1. Season 5

Team Angel standing in the alleyway getting ready for battle in the Angel series finale
20th Century Television

There’s so much to enjoy about the fifth and final season of Angel, including a series finale that ranks as one of the best in TV history. I don’t make the rules, alright? There’s plenty of humor, but a lot of loss and doom at the end of the series. The tragedy that finds Team Angel during their takeover of Wolfram & Hart is rough. The season also offers a pointed examination of how changing an establishment from the inside seldom works. Season 5 also features the fan-favorite episode “Smile Time”, aka the puppet episode. All in all, it’s an enjoyable and heartbreaking season to revisit. Bonus points go to the introduction of Illyria (Amy Acker) and Amy Acker’s badass performance.

(featured image: 20th Century Television)

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow The Mary Sue:

Vanessa Maki (she/her) is a queer Blerd and contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She first started writing for digital magazines in 2018 and her articles have appeared in Pink Advocate (defunct), The Gay Gaze (defunct), Dread Central and more. She primarily writes about movies, TV, and anime. Efforts to make her stop loving complex/villainous characters or horror as a genre will be futile.