By Ruth Kinane
June 21, 2019 at 11:00 AM EDT
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If you’re a die-hard Angel fan, you might remember watching the series finale and thinking, No! Wait! What? And you weren’t alone.

During EW’s Angel reunion shoot, the cast and creators sat down to chat about the Buffy the Vampire Slayer spin-off, which followed a vampire cursed with a conscience as he relocated to L.A. on a mission of redemption for a century of sins. The conversation covered everything from on-set explosions (“We flooded the Roswell stages!” recalls series star David Boreanaz) to dining with co-creator Joss Whedon whenever he had big character developments to share (“He likes to do that!” says Charisma Carpenter, who played cheerleader-turned-hero Cordelia Chase) to, of course, that divisive final episode.

It’s been a decade and a half since the series finale aired, so here’s some context: Heading into the fifth season, the cast and crew initially expected there to be a sixth, but when cancellation news hit during production, story lines that had the potential to run for years suddenly had to be wrapped up in half a season. “It’s very important to me that something goes out as strong as can be,” Whedon tells EW. “And there was enough time for us to take it where we thought it should go.”

When the final episode of Angel aired, audiences were split on the seemingly open ending. Yet today the finale is revered by critics as one of the best in TV history. The episode’s last scene went like this: A secret society of apocalypse harbingers called the Circle of the Black Thorne opens the gateways to hell right into the streets of Los Angeles. The remaining members of the group (Alexis Denisof’s Wesley has already died during the episode) look up as thousands of demons, assassins, and giants crawl onto the streets. A dragon flies overhead, and Angel turns to Illyria (Amy Acker), Gunn (J. August Richards), and Spike (James Marsters) and says, “Personally, I kind of want to slay the dragon. Let’s go to work.” Cut to black.

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Whedon knows what you’re thinking, but he doesn’t agree. “That ain’t a cliff,” he says. “I understand why people think that, and I understand why they would want closure, but for me, that would be like adding a Cliff Note to the end. What I always wanted to say is, trying to become worthy of the life that you have is a life’s work. The fight is for always.”

Boreanaz agrees. “I think it’s an unknown story, and I really think that it shows the battle that we are going up against and have been always,” he says, adding simply: “Never give up.”

While the ending was emotional for fans to watch, it was even more intense for the actors wrapping up years of working together — some of them across Buffy and Angel. “Obviously it was a hard closure for us because this is a tight group and it was a tight show and that crew was unbelievable,” says Denisof. “It was hard, and I think we all thought there was more to be told. But what I loved about was that the show kind of runs off into a blackout, leaves it open for the viewer to participate in whatever way they want. Because for all of this, the other character in the story is the person watching the show, and that was such a beautiful way to include them, to give them the chance to take it from there.”

Watch the full episode of Entertainment Weekly Cast Reunions: Angel streaming now on PeopleTV.com, or download the PeopleTV app on your favorite device.

To read more from our exclusive Angel cast reunion, pick up the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands now, purchase a special limited edition cover featuring David Boreanaz (available online only), or collect both! And don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.  

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