Synopsis: Buffy comes to town, and Tin Man Angel finally gets a heart.
Review: While watching this episode, I thought to myself, this is the best episode of Angel ever. Then I thought, I have only watched the first eight episodes of a series that lasts for five seasons. Can I really say this is the best episode ever? Then I read on the internet that the Angel magazine did a poll of Angel fans, and this episode was voted the best episode. I hate comparing Angel to Buffy, because the two series are different and can stand on their own, but this episode just begs to be compared with its parent series by actually guest starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. I would venture to say "I Will Remember You" is the greatest episode out of all of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.
David Greenwalt accomplishes with this episode what Joss Whedon was unable to in the Buffy episode "Amends" (one of my favorite Buffy episodes): a storyline about sacrifice with a meaningful foundation. A satisfactory story about redemption and sacrifice could not be spun about someone who was (un)dead.
We get major insight into why Angel is always so broody. He cannot enjoy even the little things of life: the taste of peanut butter and chocolate, intimate love, the sun. It is an absolute joy to watch Angel's reaction (and Cordelia's response about chocolate going to the hips) when he becomes a real boy and can taste food once again. Kudos to the writers for not having Angel and Buffy jump into bed with each other the second Angel becomes human (although it does eventually happen).
This episode had it all: a powerful theme about sacrifice, gut wrenching emotions, and fast-paced plot. The plot which included a truly menacing foe easily could have been the plot of a feature film or a two-part episode, but squishing it to fit in one television episode makes for one of the most fast-paced episodes of television ever. And did I mention that this episode was powerful emotionally?
Greenwalt and his writing partner for this episode consistently served up the unexpected. When Angel first started feeling side effects from the demon's blood, I thought he would either get deathly sick and Buffy would have to do something heroic to save him, or he would get an "aspect of the demon" like Buffy did in the Buffy episode "Earshot". Either would have provided a solid and probably humorous nevertheless mediocre episode. Instead Angel becomes human--something I never expected. "But then the rest of the episode was predictable. There had to be a reset button, so Angel could be vampire again," the cynic complains. Well, I am sorry if anyone feels that way, because it was not so for me. Why could the series have not continued with Angel as a human? There are other fictional, human vampire hunters. For example, Van Helsing. When I saw David Greenwalt as the writer in the opening credit, I was prepared for just such a twist in the series. Greenwalt was the showrunner. He was the one in charge of the direction of the series, and he was the one who would have had the ability to make just such a twist in the series.
The introduction of the oracles in this episode further deepens the beautiful mythology around vampires in the Whedonverse (which seems to be slowly slipping away in Buffy). I do wonder why Doyle, who has been a demon for a lot less time than Angel, knows more about demon society like the oracles and such. Every episode I have ever seen of a television series that backed up time to reverse the events of the entire episode (including Buffy episode "The Wish"), turned out bad...until now. The "reset button" in this episode was the anti-"reset button." It was a symbol of ultimate sacrifice rather than the resolution to the episode's complication.
I believe Angel works great as a standalone series. It does not need Buffy to lean on. I guess that is why it is the most surprising that a crossover episode earned the right to be the best episode ever. Interestingly, David Boreanaz was hesitant to even do this episode and the episode of Buffy right before it, because he wanted his new series to be able to stand on its own. I do not think the episode leans on the fact that it is a crossover. In actuality, the events of the first three seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Buffy and Angel's romance provide a back story with true depth that few series have. This episode blows the episode of Buffy that aired the same evening guest starring David Boreanaz out of the water earning the only 10 out of 10 I have ever awarded a Buffy or Angel episode.
Rating: 10 out of 10 (Reviewed by: Matthew Miller)