Seasons are ranked below based on the average quality of their episodes. The average point total for the season is in parentheses.
Many of the fans who were upset about the cancellation of Angel claimed that the show was at a creative peak. Their best and worst episode lists seem to confirm this view. The top two episodes of the entire series and four of the top seven episodes come from this season. This is in marked contrast to Buffy, where seventh season episodes tended to get mostly neutral ratings. Judging by the within season ratings, fans seem to like episodes in which a regular character dies or gets turned into a puppet. The low points of the season tended to be episodes that were not much related to what passed for a season long arc, usually focusing on secondary characters.
Season 1 has every top four episode that is not in the fifth season. However, it also has four of the eight weakest episodes. Fans seemed to like shows in which characters from Buffy come to visit. Four of the top seven episodes had visits from Buffy, Faith, Spike, and/or Oz. There is also a slight preference for episodes with Doyle over episodes without him. Doyle appears in five of the top eight first season episodes and only four of the remaining 14 episodes.
The five episodes in which Angel is missing his soul, including the three episodes in which Faith appears, are all among the top nine episodes of the season. Fans also seem to like episodes in which Connor plays a major role. He has 27 or fewer lines in the eight weakest episodes of the season and at least 27 lines in all but one of the remaining episodes. The beginning of the season was a weak point. Four of the first five episodes are among the six weakest episodes of the season. Also, Elizabeth Craft & Sarah Fain wrote three of the four weakest eposides, and Marita Grabiak directed the bottom two. However, weakest fourth season episode is not saying much. No fourth season episode falls among the 16 worst across all seasons.
This season makes one wonder what would have been accomplished if Tim Minear decided to emulate Babylon 5's J. Michael Straczynski and write every episode in the season. His worst episode still outranks the best episode by anyone else. David Greenwalt had a mixed season. He wrote the three best season 2 episodes that Tim Minear did not write as well as the two weakest episodes of the season.
Fans seemed to like episodes in which Darla played a strong role and in which Gunn was mostly absent. Darla appeared in five of the top six episodes and seven of the top 11 episodes. In fact, the best episode of the season was titled "Darla" where she had more lines than any other character and more than she had in any other episode. She appeared in only three of the bottom 11 episodes of the season and had six or fewer lines in two of the three. Gunn, on the other hand, had fewer than ten lines in four of the top five episodes of the season and had at least ten lines in all of the other episodes.
Season 3 is the only season not to have any top ten episodes, although "Lullaby" and "Waiting in the Wings" barely miss the top ten. Fans seemed to like episodes in which Lilah appeared. She was in ten of the 14 best episodes of the season and only two of the remaining eight. Unlike the fourth season, Connor's presence seemed to be detrimental to the quality of third season episodes. He did not appear as an adult in any of the top ten episodes of the season, but he appeared in four of the remaining 12 episodes.
Angel fans, like Buffy fans, like to debate the best and worst seasons. However, like with Buffy, the season seems to matter very little in the quality of episodes. The average scores for episodes in each of the three middle seasons are within a half point of each other. Overall, only 1.9% of the quality of episodes can be explained by the season in which they appeared.
Unlike Buffy, when an episode airs in a season does not matter much more. Knowing whether an episode is a season finale explains only an additional 4.8% of an episode's quality. Knowing whether an episode is a season opener or the second-to-last episode of a season explains only 0.2% of episode quality at this stage. However, like with Buffy, knowing whether an episode is a season opener or the second-to-last episode of a season is more useful in later stages for complicated reasons.