The packaging of the Angel Season 3 6-disc DVD box set is quite nice, with great artwork spotlighting all the main characters of the series. As with the previous Buffy and Angel seasons the box holds a nice fold up paper 6 DVD case/sleeve. It’s actually quite impressive looking, though a little bit of a hassle to grab a disc and go, but I’m just being lazy. As far as literature goes there isn’t much to speak of, there’s a nice little episode guide, a FOX DVD checklist and then an ad to buy Buffy Season 5, Firefly and Angel Season 3 (it’s so COOL, buy it AGAIN kids!). It would be sweeter and quite a nice incentive if they put some “limited” stuff in the box set, like pictures, cells, cards, locks of Charisma Carpenter’s hair, etc. Mmmm Charisma Carpenter… uh… but we can’t have it all.
What may possibly be the best of series thus far, Season 3 of Angel was a very important one, it marked the first time that Angel had to stand on it’s own two feet on the WB; being that Buffy had just jumped ship to UPN. I found it a little funny how the writers had to find creative ways to NOT say “her” name. Especially since she had died in the finale of the previous season and they really couldn’t avoid that (if you have no idea what I’m talking about then go read up on your Buffy and Angel lore).
The season starts off a little slow but does plant a few great back stories, one involving Nathanial Holtz, a Vampire Hunter from over a 100 years past, who’s family was slain by a then “evil”, Angel and his sire/lover, Darla. The other major developing plot point was that of Darla becoming pregnant after Angel had angry and violet sex with her last season; the interesting part of this being that since vampires are dead they can’t have children. Being pregnant with Angel’s son slowly causes her personality change since the baby’s soul made her more humane. The great part of the Darla storyline was the superb acting job by Julie Benz who had actually played the Darla character ever since the pilot episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. During this season she took her character from someone that you just hated and despised to one that you really felt sorry for, especially when she reveals the remorse for what she will do to her baby after she has it and becomes evil again. Eventually she stakes herself knowing that it is the right thing to do and the only way to ensure that she herself does not kill the baby. The second act of the season changes the pace of the story now mainly involving Holtz and Angel’s son; this is where the season goes gloomy for our favorite vampire hero. By the end of the season Holtz has his nefarious revenge on Angel and the season ends on a down note that rivals that of “The Empire Strikes Back”. Other growing plot twists involve Cordelia’s problematic and painful “Visions” and a little love triangle romancing cut straight out “Passions of the One Day in the Lives of our General Hospital in Melrose Place of 90210”.
The DVD itself is the same high quality of the previous season; again it is presented in 16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen, looking quite crisp compared to Season 1, which was 4:3 and grainy. The menus are simple and easy to navigate but still pretty enough and the theme song for Angel can never be overused, it’s well laid out and gets the job done. No Easter Eggs I could find though. The only gripe I had with the presentation was how dark the show looks. It just seemed as if the show was shot with the white balance set to black. Luckily my DVD player has a cinema enhancer feature that brightened the picture right up. One thing that I’ve found a bit odd on the Joss Whedon DVD’s is that there is never a “Play All” feature on the discs, I can’t seem to figure out why, it’s a bit of a nuisance to have to back out of the menus and then go back into a different one to watch it the next episode, ruins the flow of things if you want to sit and watch the disc in one sitting, Smallville had it and so should all TV show DVDs. Though it really isn’t that necessary, it would have been nice if the show was presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital but even the current HD version of the regular show isn’t and I’m sure in not remixing to 5.1 saves on the cost of production on the discs, which like previous seasons will probably retail for $59.99, though you can easily find it cheaper even in brick and mortar stores. A few online websites have it on pre-order right now for $38.99. So, eh it’s ok to settle for stereo at least for some savings.
Like all the previous Whedon DVDs there isn’t an overabundance of special content, there are a few outtakes but hardly enough to satisfy me considering that there are 22 42-minute episodes on this set I’d assume there were more funnies than the 5 minutes that was supplemented on the disc. The “From Page to Screen” featurette was an enjoyable one that gives us great look at the behind-the-scenes look at the making of a TV series, it takes more than one writer and director to make season, in fact it takes a team of writers and directors to collaborate on ideas to make a television show. The “Darla: Deliver Us from Evil” featurette is excellent and quite deserving for Julie Benz, she’s been around the Buffyverse as long as it’s inception and this feature gives us a look at the history of Darla and how Julie views her, a great send off the character. A neat little cut scene that was included was a 5 minute alternate reality sit-com that stars Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter), it was just interesting to see Charisma playing Cordelia playing some other stuck up chick in a poorly written sit-com, which is why it was cut (because it was poorly written not because it was interesting). Commentaries are sparse but are quite entertaining; you get to hear what is going on in the mind of the writers and the directors while they were shooting. Well at least what they perceive now of what they were thinking. There are also 2 screen tests; one of Amy Acker (Fred) and the other of Vincent Kartheiser (Conner), Amy’s was in character in some odd lost episode where everyone is a poet looking for love and she happens to be the damsel. While Vincent’s is just plain weird, he wasn’t exactly playing Conner (the grown up baby of Angel and Darla) but some whiny teen in some after school special who happens to have Angel as his guardian. It was goofy and totally out of character, not that it’s bad, just odd. Then there are some stills, I never understood the notion of stills cause they’re just pictures of actors and most of the time they look like frames from the actually show. If I want to see stills from the movie I’d just pause the movie.
Angel is a great show and season 3 is one of the best and most dramatic at least thus far. The acting is superb on all accounts, the stories are excellent and the season is tightly woven to tell a fantastic tale of revenge from Angel’s past. The set includes a few extra features and a fairly decent looking anamorphic transfer. Pick up this DVD if you’re a fan, it’s a must own. If you’re not a fan, season 1 and 2 are available go pick them up! You’re missing out on one of the smartest show on TV today. The characters are top notch and there are tons of hilarious nuances written into each and every episode.