The character of Angel (played by David Boreanaz) first appeared in the Pilot episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But it wasn’t until Episode 7 titled “Angel” when Buffy (and viewers) learned he was a vampire when the character emerged as a tortured hero. He had a past to atone for based on centuries of killings he committed as a blood thirsty vampire.
Angel was a fantasy television series that aired on The WB 1999-2004 focusing on a vampire cursed by gypsies who restored his soul as punishment for killing a gypsy girl. Seeking redemption for the centuries of murder and mayhem he committed as Angelus, Angel moved to Los Angeles and sought to save people from vampires, demons and other supernatural evil.
I was a huge fan of The WB series Angel when it originally aired. I recently decided to rewatch the entire series again on Hulu and found that I enjoyed it better fourteen years after the final episode was broadcast on television. The themes of redemption, sacrifice, family and friendship made Angel more than a supernatural fantasy series about a vampire. Surprisingly, I discovered the humor in Angel I missed the first time around. For being a big bad vampire, Angel as a character had moments where he displayed geekiness, was clueless and insecure. Thank goodness he had Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter), Wesley (Alexis Denisof), Gunn (J. August Richards), Fred (Amy Acker) and Lorne (Andy Hallett) to keep him focused and to remind him that he was a champion for good.
The richness of the story telling in Angel lied in his interaction with the characters that crossed his path. Whether they were friend or foe, these characters added to Angel’s life and purpose in the world. And no other character complicated Angel’s life more than his son Connor (Vincent Kartheiser). The two shared a love/hate relationship for two seasons. Throughout all their fights and betrayals, Angel never stopped loving his son and proved it by agreeing to work from Wolfram and Hart in exchange for rewriting Connor’s memories in order to give his son the childhood and life he never had. Basically, Angel gave up his son so Connor could have a better past and future.
I admit when I first watched Angel when it originally aired, I didn’t like the character of Connor much. Let me change that, I loved baby Connor. He was so cute and had that “aw factor.” A favorite scene of mine was when Angel displayed his vampire face to get baby Connor to stop crying. Daddy Angel brought out another side of the character which was great to see. But then arch enemy Daniel Holtz (Keith Szarabajka) took the baby and jumped into a portal to the Hell dimension of Quor’toth. When Connor returned weeks later, he was a teenager and feral warrior with a hatred for his vampire dad. But the worst thing about Connor was that he was an angry, angsty teen which grated on the nerves of many viewers. I found myself looking forward to scenes where Angel, Fred and Gunn put Connor in his place by either telling him to “get over it” (i.e. his anger over his bad childhood and life) or just punching some sense into him. The annoyance over Connor didn’t effect my opinion of Vincent Kartheiser as an actor. He did a great job playing the troubled character (and went on to acting heights as Pete Campbell in AMC’s Mad Men).
However my rewatch of Angel has me to taking a different view on Connor. I’d like to discuss this as well as talk about the complicated father son relationship of Angel and Connor. Let’s start with some history first.
Two Vampires, Centuries Raising Hell
The Angel/Connor saga actually begins in 1753 when a vampire named Darla sired an Irish ne’er-do-well bloke named Liam, who as a human was only good for drinking and whoring around his village. Liam’s death gave birth to Angelus “The vampire with the face of an angel.” Darla and Angelus were the royal vampire couple leaving their subjects (i.e. victims) dead throughout Europe. In 1764, Darla and Angelus murdered vampire hunter Daniel Holtz’s wife and infant son as well as turned his daughter into a vampire forcing Holtz to kill the cursed creature wearing the face of his beloved child. Murdering Holtz’s family set off a chain of events that would have serious ramifications for Angel in the future.
Two Vampires and a Baby
Centuries later, Angel is living in Los Angeles running Angel Investigations fighting the good fight against evil supernatural beings. He runs afoul of Wolfram and Hart, a corrupt law firm with their own ties to the underworld. Sire/lover Darla was resurrected by Wolfram and Hart as part of their plan to manipulate Angel. She returned human and with a soul. Also with syphilis, the disease in which the promiscuous prostitute Darla almost died of the first time around when she was human. Long story short, Darla was turned back into a vampire (sired by grand daughter Drusilla, who was sired by Angelus). As he was unable to save her, Angel vowed to kill Darla. But during a particular down moment for our hero vampire, Angel slept with Darla. Eight months later she entered the Hyperion Hotel (Base camp for Angel Inc.) pregnant. While the team at Angel Inc. worked on figuring out how two vampires could have a child, Angel happily settled into the idea of being a father once he learned the baby was human and a boy. The baby shared its soul with her while she carried it so Darla found herself developing maternal feelings for her child. In order to save her son’s life, Darla staked herself so the baby could be born.
Goodbye Connor, Hello Connor
Being a father was an adjustment for Angel who at first refused help from his friends. But soon the baby found a family with the entire Angel Investigations team. That was until a demon named Sahijan woke a sleeping Daniel Holtz, who he had made a deal with in 1764: If Holtz agreed to kill Darla and Angel, he would be brought back two hundred years in the future to carry out the deed and get his revenge against the vampires who ruined his life by murdering his family. Sahijan had nothing against Angel and Darla; his real target was Connor as a prophecy revealed the baby would grow to manhood and kill Sahijan. Baby Connor was extremely popular. Wolfram and Hart wanted the infant as well but to dissect to find out what it was. A false prophecy The Father Will Kill The Son caused Wesley to kidnap baby Connor to save him from Angel. This lead to Holtz getting a hold of the child and taking him to Quor’Toth. However weeks later, a portal opened in the lobby of the Hyperion Hotel and out jumped teen Connor.
Okay now that you’re caught up on Angel and Connor’s backstory, let’s dive into their father son dynamic. Although he missed many years of his son’s life, Angel was happy to have Connor back. On the other hand, Connor wasn’t as eager to have a relationship with his vampire dad. Holtz had filled Connor in on Angel’s crimes as a vampire which included killing Holtz’s family. Connor, renamed Steven by Holtz, was raised to hate vampires, demons and anything not human. I think Connor would have accepted Angel’s love eventually if not for being manipulated by Holtz who claimed to love Connor as his son but used him to get the ultimate revenge against Angel. There were a few times when I saw a warming in Connor for Angel as his father. I think one of the biggest problems with Connor was not knowing what he was and where he belonged. This caused him to have a hard time accepting love. But he desperately craved it and being a part of something. After Angel threw him out of the hotel for sending him (Angel) to the bottom of the ocean, (With the help of Justine (Laurel Hollman), who made two puncture wounds in his neck to simulate being bitten by a vampire, Holtz tricked Connor into believing Angel killed him) Connor remembered Angel’s words (“Nothing in the world is the way it oughta be. It’s harsh and cruel. But that’s why there’s us…champions. It doesn’t matter where we come from, what we’ve done, or suffered. Or even if we make a difference. We live as though the world were as it should be, to show it what it can be. You’re not a part of that yet. I hope you will be.”- Angel, Deep Down Season 4 Episode 1) and sought to be a champion like his father by saving people from vampires.
Connor fought alongside his father a couple of times. But more manipulations from ultimate evil Jasmine possessing Cordelia in order to bring herself (Jasmine) into the world (Cordy sleeping with Connor in order to conceive Jasmine further estranged father and son) made Connor change his loyalties throughout Season 4.
I was glad to see the writers of Angel redeem Connor in Season Five Episode 18 “Origin.” Due to Angel’s sacrifice to give him a better life, Connor became Connor Reilly, a normal Stanford University student. But circumstances brought him back into Angel’s world when Connor and his new family were threatened by Cyvus Vail, the warlock who gave Connor his false memories. Vail wanted Connor to kill Sahijan to fulfill the prophecy so Sahijan wouldn’t kill Vail. To protect his family, Connor agreed. But unlike warrior Connor, college student Connor sucked at the hand-to-hand combat and got his ass kicked by Sahijan until his past memories were restored. Ding dong the dimensional travelling demon was dead. Connor didn’t reveal to Angel he had his memories back at the end of “Origin”, only saying cryptically “You gotta do what you can to protect your family. I learned that from my father” But when Connor returned in the Series Finale episode “Not Fade Away,” he revealed he got his memories back and admitted he knew Angel was his father. Connor thanked Angel for what he did for him and said he was grateful. Later in “Not Fade Away,” Connor helped Angel defeat Marcus Hamilton, the super charged liaison to the Senior Partners. This was the Angel/Connor father son relationship I always wanted to see. Father and son fighting evil together.
David Boreanaz and Vincent Kartheiser portrayals of Angel and Connor were excellent in adding to their troubled relationship. What made this father son tale so heartbreaking was in Boreanaz’s and Kartheiser’s acting you could feel their characters’ pain. Angel loved Connor and wanted his son to know that love. Connor deep down knew Angel loved him but couldn’t let go of the hate Holtz instilled in him for Angel. The sad thing was Holtz’s interference robbed Connor of the two things he craved most: love and acceptance. He had both of these with Angel.
I found the video below and thought it amazingly showed Angel and Connor’s journey:
And also this Angel/Connor appreciation forum:
I feel that many of the choices Connor made when dealing with Angel were designed to push his vampire father away. I think in his mind Connor felt he was being disloyal to Holtz, the man who raised him and he viewed as his father, if he showed any sort of affection towards Angel. Plus, Angel’s love and manner towards him contradicted everything Holtz told Connor about the blood thirsty monster Angelus. And Angel tried everything he could to reach his son. Even his anger, jealousy and resentment when he discovered the woman he loved and his son were together didn’t change his feelings towards Connor. Season 5 Connor finally realized the depth of Angel’s love for him and got to be a true champion by helping his father defeat Marcus Hamilton. A real father son respect and understanding was a long time coming, but it helped to change my view towards Connor. He finally became the man Angel wanted him to be and a character viewers could like.
Video Courtesy of starryeyesxxmasterclass
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