LOS ANGELES -- Just because the wry vampire drama "Angel" is over doesn't mean it's the end of the world ... even if the final episode does include an appearance by the Apocalypse.
"Angel" creator Joss Whedon- whose efforts to remake the show this year boosted ratings and garnered continued critical acclaim, only to see it canceled by the WB network regardless - says the theme of the closing installment is "keep on fighting."
That goes for the title hero himself, a youthful-looking 250-year-old vampire, played by David Boreanaz, who is trying to redeem past decades of undead wickedness by helping the hopeless amid the supernatural evildoers of Los Angeles.
"Redemption is something you have to fight for in a very personal down dirty way," Whedon told The Associated Press. "Some of our characters lose that, some stray from that, and some regain it."
"Keep on fighting" also applies, Whedon added, to the thousands of fervent fans who, in a desperate bid to keep "Angel" around for one more season, protested, petitioned, wrote letters and even mailed out free chocolate bars to anyone remotely associated with the fate of the program.
They want more, more, more and are bitterly angry at the WB for dropping the show, which lagged in repeats. The WB, which in the meantime is exploring a different vampire drama with a remake of the supernatural soap opera "Dark Shadows," has responded to "Angel" fan lobbying by proposing a return to the show with occasional TV movies or a miniseries.
Nothing is on the slate yet, according to Whedon. It's up to fans to maintain the pressure.
"Part of me is still thinking about TV movies," he said. "The WB did propose the idea of doing something ... but it was kind of offhand. There was interest in that, but I haven't heard anybody really pursuing it."
One of the people the fans will have to persuade is Boreanaz. "As far as returning to the show for a reunion, I could probably put that to bed now: I have no interest in doing that," he said, adding that he would, however, be open to a theatrical movie. "It would have to be a bigger challenge rather than going back to something."
After the cancellation, there were some hurt feelings among the cast and crew that manifested itself in the finale.
"We put a lot of that heartbreak into the script, into the show, so it would hurt as much to watch as it did to have it taken away from us," Whedon said. "I would not have been as brutal about the ending had we had another season."
The last episode of "Angel," titled "Not Fade Away," is considerably less upbeat than the conclusion to its sister show, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," which ended last year with the heroine and her friends successfully closing a major gateway to Hell.
"Angel" finishes with a less victorious tone, and the show's admirers may be surprised by its brutality.
At least one major character meets a grisly death. Another decides fighting the good fight is no longer worth it. By the time the show is broadcast on May 19, fans may find there aren't enough survivors for a reunion special.
The show's admirers developed a special relationship with the cast of supernatural-fighting misfits: Wesley, a bookwormish occult expert whose comic-relief role devolved into tragedy and betrayal; Lorne (Andy Hallett), a green-skinned, two-horned do-gooder demon who can read minds by listening to a person sing; Gunn (J. August Richards), a streetfighter who sold some of his righteousness for mystical intelligence; and Spike (James Marsters) a rival vampire-with-a-soul whose bad attitude brought a welcome dose of pragmatism.
Marsters, who was brought over in this fifth and final season after being a regular on "Buffy," said the closing scenes of "Angel" represent a dark moral: "Being a hero doesn't mean you succeed in saving the day. It just means you tried."
Already this past season, they saw two major characters meet their deaths. Charisma Carpenter, who played Angel's sarcastic sometimes-love-interest Cordelia, returned from the dead in spirit form to guide her friends on a final quest. Then Fred, the winsome scientist played by Amy Acker, died when her body became possessed by an ancient malevolent spirit.
There remain a lot of loose ends to tie up, but they all come down to one thing: the end of the world. All through the show, evil powers have conspired to manipulate Angel into triggering Armageddon, clearing the way for ghouls, ghosts and other creatures to reclaim the Earth.
Angel's immortal soul - the thing that makes him ache over past wrongs, unlike his soulless vampire brethren - hangs in the balance, and he could find himself cursed through eternity.
If his character survives the finale for a return to the "Angel" universe, Marsters said he'd be game to revisit the bloodsucker Spike.
"I have no idea what's in the future - but what I do know is that I play a vampire and the clock is ticking on how long this face can be believably exactly the same as when we met him (seven years ago on 'Buffy')," Marsters said, laughing. "If they want to do something, let's not wait too long."
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