Angel is a noncostumed, extra-powerful but appealingly humble slice of beefcake. (If this superhero parallel seems strained, let me point out that ”Angel” — and ”Buffy the Vampire Slayer” — creator Joss Whedon has said of David Boreanaz’s Angel, ”If I had to [make a comparison to] a superhero, Batman would probably get the nod.”)
The new season of ”Angel” is both Batman-dark and sly fun. What began as an awkward ”Buffy” spinoff now has, under the guidance of exec producer David Greenwalt, its own tone, embodied by Boreanaz’s relaxed L.A.-hipster vampire-detective: He’s become the Dean Martin of bloodsuckers, and I mean that as a compliment. Gone, mercifully, is last season’s awkward love interest, a vacuous cop played by Elisabeth Rohm, who’s now dragging things down on ”Law & Order.” The show’s core team — Angel, sassy assistant Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter), Brit ”Watcher” Wesley (Alexis Denisof), and Gunn (J. August Richards), an African-American vigilante whose race is occasionally pivotal in some of the show’s best plots — has been joined by the frail Fred (Amy Acker), whom Angel rescued from another dimension and who’s still recovering from the breakdown resulting from her captivity.
Together, they solve crimes and each other’s problems, with moments of comic relief. The Oct. 15 episode, in which an old man switched bodies with Angel, gave Boreanaz the chance to play an evil Angel with lascivious wit. Angel remains a brooding hero, and the writers have also tapped into a Batman-like wryness, as well as a scary pleasure taken in pummeling bad guys.