The spin-off of Buffy the Vampire Slayer starring David Boreanaz was well known for it’s dark imagery and slightly more serious tone but for the most part Angel never really crossed over into truly terror inducing horror. Until it’s fifth and final season where it gave us “Hell Bound”, an episode that still sends chills down my spin 12 years later. It carries the distinction of being the only episode of Angel to carry a warning of graphic violence before it aired and for good reason. They created some truly gory visuals that hold up to this day.
The episode revolves around fan favorite Spike played by James Marsters who at this point in the show was some sort of spirit following the events of the Buffy finale. Over the course of the last few episodes he had begun disappearing, when he would return he seemed visibly shaken up but it was never revealed what was happening to him while he was gone, until now. Spike believes he is being dragged to hell for his sins and at various moments in the episode he’s transported to creepy settings and is witness to horrifying visuals sometimes right in front of the other characters that only he can see. It’s truly jarring to see this usually strong and snarky undead character brought to his knees and made to feel helpless by this seemingly unstoppable psychological monster that no one else even knows exists. The reveal of who is actually reasonable and why they do it is brilliantly dark.
In what was the second biggest travesty the Whedonverse would have to endure, Angel was cancelled after season five. Fans knew the show had much more to offer and were crushed to see it go. Hell Bound was written and directed by Steven S. DeKnight, an incredibly talented television producer who not only worked on Joss Whedon productions Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Dollhouse but also Smallville and Spartacus: War of the Damned. These days DeKnight is an executive producer, writer and show runner for Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix. If you haven’t watched the amazing first season of Daredevil do yourself a favor and take a trip to your instant queue but before you start that series look up this episode of Angel (also available in instant queue) and see some of Steven S. DeKnight finest and frightening work.