Much of Angel's past life is revealed through various flashbacks during both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel's spin-off series.
Angel was born Liam (last name unknown), in the 18th Century in Galway, Ireland. Liam led an unremarkable life, a failure to his parents and a drunk. Everything changed for him after he met and was turned into a vampire by Darla in 1753. He then adopted a new name, Angelus. Angelus soon became one of the most notorious vampires in the world.
In 1860 he drives a young clairvoyant named Drusilla mad, posing as a priest, killing everyone she loves, and eventually turning her into a vampire.
One day he killed the wrong girl, a gypsy girl. The gypsy family curses Angelus with a soul (something removed from a human being after they are sired). The weight of his actions hits him but he attempts to continue to to live his life with Darla. He is unsuccessful in this, however, and leaves for America. Generally while in America he keeps to himself, and by the last few decades of the 1900's he was homeless and living off rats. He was then visited by a demon, Whistler, who sent him to go watch over the new vampire slayer, Buffy.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Forbidden loves have endlessly plagued the pages of history and literature. For every Juliet there is a Romeo. Angel's role on Buffy the Vampire Slayer became Buffy's Romeo, her forbidden true love. He begins his role in the Buffyverse by observing the young Slayer fighting the good fight. Inspired by her actions he introduces himself as a friend and begins helping Buffy on numerous occasions. A romance soon sparks between the two. Even after Buffy finds out that Angel is a vampire, she still is interested in him. The gypsy's curse that burdens Angel with a soul shall be lifted if he is to experience one true moment of complete happiness. When Buffy and Angel have sex in the second season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this moment of happiness occurs and thus Angelus, the murderous beast returns.
Angelus uses Angel's relationship to the slayer against her, as well as bringing pain to her friends. He even tortures her watcher Giles, and kills Giles' girlfriend Jenny Calendar. He killed Jenny both because she was working on a way to put his soul back and because she was a decedent of the gypsy family cursed him. Buffy's friend Willow finds what Jenny was working on and realizes she was attempting to give him his soul back. Meanwhile, Angelus has decided to destroy the world. Buffy goes to stop him, and during their fight Willow restores his soul. Confused and bewildered, Angel looks at Buffy unsure of whats going on. Unfortunately, Angelus had already opened the portal to destroy the world, and this process can only be stopped by finishing off Angel. So Buffy kisses Angel and then must stab him.
Angel spends a hundred years in a Hell dimension until he is brought back for initially unknown reasons. Due to the harsh environment of a Hell dimension, Angel returns wild and feral. Buffy helps him him recover from this state, and while the two intend to have some sort of relationship, but the burden of knowing that they can never be happy together without causing Angelus to return again is too great for them and Angel decides it would be best to leave town (much to the heartache of Buffy). Angel then embarks on his own supernatural adventures in L.A. on his own spin-off series, Angel.
Angel Season One
Angel moves to Los Angeles to allow Buffy to rebuild a new life without him and he begins his wild adventures as leader of the private eye agency: Angel Investigations. The first members of Angel Investigations were Cordelia Chase and the half-demon Doyle. Cordelia was a girl that Buffy went to high school with, and she comes into Angel's employ after unsuccessfully trying to start an acting career. Doyle, sent by the Powers That Be, comes to Angel to help get him started on his path. Doyle receives visions from the Powers That Be of people in need of help, Angel searches them out, and helps them.
Unfortunately one of these adventures led them into a situation where Angel was needed to sacrifice himself. Instead of allowing him to do so, Doyle knocked Angel out and sacrificed himself instead. This affected Angel and Cordelia greatly emotionally, though they were about to get a new addition to the team. Wesley Wyndam-Price (a recurring character in the third season of Buffy) came to town, a former Watcher who was now calling himself a "rogue demon hunter." The visions now being given to Cordelia, the trio continues the work together. The evil law firm Wolfram and Hart had bigger plans in mind for Angel. They resurrected Darla (who was killed by Angel during the first season of Buffy) at the close of the first season.
Angel Season Two
Season 2 initially feels much like season one, though they gain a new member to Angel Investigations, Charles Gunn (originally introduced towards the end of season one). Gunn is a street kid who has fought vampires his whole life, but joins the team after seeing the good they were doing. The season begins to take a different turn when Angel sees that Darla has been resurrected by Wolfram and Heart, not as a vampire, but as a human. Because she is a human now Angel wants to help her, but Wolfram and Heart decides to bring Drusilla, a vampire sired by Angelus, in to re-sire Darla.
Angel's character becomes much darker here, and his mission changes from helping the helpless to attacking the guilty. He also fires Gunn, Wesley, and Cordelia from Angel Investigations (though they restart the agency elsewhere, with the intention of changing the name). Angel chooses not to stop Darla and Druisilla from killing an entire room full of Wolfram and Heart lawyers. He then tracks Darla and Drusilla down and sets them on fire (though they both survive). Angel comes to the realization though that there will always be evil in the world, and he will never be able to stop it. Depressed and angry, Angel has sex with Darla in an attempt to loose his soul.
The result is different than he expected. Rather than being a moment of perfect happiness, it is perfect despair, and helps Angel realize the incorrect direction he was moving in. The next episode (appropriately titled, "Epiphany") chronicled Angel's attempts to win back his friends. Realizing how betrayed they must feel, Angel asks to work for them (as an employee) instead of asking them to come back to work for him. The adjustment to have Wesley now be the leader instead of him is difficult for Angel, but he accepts it as what he must do to win back their forgiveness. Wesley would continue to be the boss of the agency up until towards the end of season three.
The season finale was essentially a four part episode, during the first of which Cordelia was sucked into a portal to a demon dimension. This demon dimension was called Pylea, the home dimension of local demon bar owner Lorne, who reluctantly agrees to go with them. The last three episodes chronicled Angel, Gunn, Lorne, and Wesley's journey to save Cordelia. This finale included Cordelia becoming a princess, her forced marriage to the Hercules-like ' Groosalugg', finding a girl named Winifred who had also been transported there, and a rebellion against an evil demon government. Upon returning from Pylea (bringing Fred back with them), Angel is informed by Buffy's best friend Willow that Buffy had been killed.
Angel Season Three
Angel spends time at a monastery in Sri Lanka to recover from Buffy's death. Angel realizes that all the monks that live there are demons and is forced to kill all of them. Afterwords, Angel remarks that he should have taken Gunn's advice and gone to Vegas. Angel then returns to LA to get back into action with Angel Investigations. Angel's past comes back to get him in a big way during season three in the form of a man named Daniel Holtz. Holtz was a vampire hunter that tracked Angelus and Darla during their rampage in Europe. To get back at Holtz for his constant pursuit of them, Angelus and Darla killed Holtz's family. After this event Holtz swears revenge upon Angel and later makes a deal with a demon name Shajhan. The deal brought Holtz to the 21st century so he can once again hunt down Angel.
Meanwhile, Darla has returned to L.A., pregnant. Evidently the night they slept together bore a child between the two vampires, but this is a strange event because vampires are unable to have children. During labor Darla, realizing that the child won't survive, stakes herself leaving the child behind in the dust. Angel takes the child but quickly realizes that nearly every force would be after the child. Unlike the other groups, Holtz chose to wait to go after the child. They were able to defeat the groups after the child, and Angel names him Connor. Wesley finds a prophecy that tales of the father killing the son. In an attempt to save the life of Connor from both Angel and Holtz, Wesley kidnaps him. Wesley plans were stopped when he is attacked and Holtz escapes into a demon dimension with Connor. Angel goes to Wesley (who is in the hospital with a slit throat) and attempts to kill him by smothering him with a pillow.
While Connor was in the different dimension time flew there but in the real world time seemed to barely move at all. Connor and Holtz return back shortly after Holtz had kidnapped Connor, but Connor is now an eighteen year old and Holtz is an old man. While in the demon dimension, Holtz had trained Connor to hate Angel. Despite this, Angel tries to show this teenage Connor that he is not who Holtz has made him out to be. In a final act of hatred and revenge, Holtz kills himself and makes it look like Angel's doing. Connor kidnaps Angel and puts him into a large box. Angel's last words to Connor before he was sealed away was "Connor! Never forget that I'm your father, and I love you!"
Angel Season Four
The last shot of season three is Connor dropping Angel to the bottom of the ocean in a locked box. Season 4 of Angel kicked off with the rescue of Angel from his deep sea prison by none other than Wesley. After reuniting with Gunn & Fred, he kicks Connor around a bit, gives him a lecture, and effectively "kicks him out of the house". Angel continues to watch over Connor as he lives on the streets, and thanks Wesley for helping him (informing him he is no longer angry with him). Everything begins to get worst as "The Beast" appears in LA. The Beast rains fire down upon the city and blacks out the sun, turning LA into a vampire and demon paradise. The crew realizes that Angelus once had contact with the Beast, so they make the regrettable decision to purposely remove Angel's soul.
Ultimately Angelus kills the Beast, which also ends up restoring the sun (something Angelus likely didn't expect). Wesley recruits rogue Vampire Slayer Faith out of prison to help take down Angelus. Faith does something extremely dangerous to do this: she spikes her own blood. Angelus didn't see this coming and the drugged blood puts both him and Faith into a comma. Faith and Angelus relive Angel's memories, and the dream experience climaxes between a fight between Angel and Angelus. Angel is the one to wake from the comma.
Despite the death of the Beast and the restoring of Angel's soul, Angel had another problem to deal with. Cordelia (unknown to the other characters at this time) was possessed by a goddess known as Jasmine and seemingly pregnant with Connor's child (who she seduced). Cordelia essentially gives birth to Jasmine's corporeal body (a full grown, beautiful woman) and falls into a comma. Angel is the first to see Jasmine and falls into immediate adoration for her (a spell Jasmine works on those who see her). Soon everyone begins to fall in love with Jasmine. Eventually however, the Angel Investigations team is freed from her spell and stops her. Connor, shaken from everything that happens to him, becomes unstable and self-destructive. In order to help him, Angel is forced to accept an offer from Wolfram and Heart to become the new CEO of the LA branch of the law firm.
Angel Season Five
The deal Angel makes with Wolfram and Heart essentially reconnected the majority of the events of both Seasons 3 and 4 of the show. Connor's entire existence has been erased from everyone's memories with the exception of Angel, who still remembers his son (who now is living a normal life with a normal family). Season 5 has Angel and co taking over the LA branch of Wolfram and Heart, with one new addition, one of Angelus's former partners-in-crime, Spike. Spike is now also a vampire with a soul and appears at Wolfram and Heart as a ghost after sacrificing himself to save Buffy and her friends, though eventually he becomes corporeal again (much to Angel's dismay).
Angel begins act strangely during their time at Wolfram and Heart. Angel's friends believe that he has joined the Circle of Black Thorns, a secret society devoted to being the Senior Partner's instruments on earth. While he had joined the society, Angel reveals to his friends that he has done this to get close to them, figure out their plans, and unleash his own plan upon them and Wolfram and Heart. Angel knew his plan would be dangerous, and didn't force any of his team to help, though they all were willing to help.
Angel's plan was to have each of them take out a specific member of the Circle of Black Thorn and meet back up for the final battle against Wolfram and Heart. The only ones to arrive at the meeting spot was Angel, Illyria (Fred was possessed by this an ancient creature earlier in the season), Spike and Gunn (who was mortally wounded). Wesley was dead and Lorne disappeared. An army sent by the Senior Partners of Wolfram and Heart converged upon them. This concluded the TV series Angel.
In canonical comics
Angel: After the Fall
In 2007 IDW began publishing a canonical continuation of Angel's story being written by Brian Lynch under the supervision of Buffy and Angel creator Joss Whedon.
After the Fall picks up after the ending of Angel Season Five. That army the Senior Partners sent was really all of hell being unleashed upon LA. And they turned angel human.
In retaliation to Angel's stance, Wolfram & Hart has seemingly moved the city of Los Angeles to a hell dimension, turning it into a post-apocalyptic territory filled with demons. In an attempt to deprive him of his strength and immortality when he needed it most, the Senior Partners have also turned Angel into a human, forcing Angel and Wesley to rely on mystical enchantments to provide Angel with at least a measure of his old abilities.
Angel is still based at the demolished Wolfram & Hart building and is under the watch of the Senior Partners' newest liaison, Wesley. Angel is, however, planning to take the fight to the Senior Partners and free Los Angeles, first by destroying all of the demon lords of Los Angeles. While preparing for the war, he rescues citizens in peril and sends them, anonymously, to his son Connor who has set up a safe-house with Nina and Gwen. Angel is not alone, however. With him is his newest friend and companion, the dragon that was closing in on him in the final scene of the Angel series finale. After befriending the dragon in the alley, they had joined forces to make a powerful team. Having learned the truth about Spike, Angel declares to the demon lords of Los Angeles that he shall free all their human slaves, and arranges to meet them in two days to restore Los Angeles to Earth.
Having used his rituals to heal his wounds, Angel contacts Lorne, now the lord of the Silver Lake area, to confirm his old friend's neutral status in the upcoming struggle against the demon lords, and is reunited with the Groosalugg, who offers his services to Angel in the upcoming battle just before Gunn, now a vampire, destroys the Wolfram & Hart building as part of his revenge against Angel. When Angel goes up against the champions of the Demon Lords, he initially stands alone in his fight. Unknown to him, Lorne went around and rallied all of Angel's friends to come join him in his fight. After the fight is over and the Demon Lords defeated, Angel and crew head back to their old home base: the Hyperion Hotel. Later, shortly after killing a nest of vampires, Illyria reveals to the group that Angel is no longer a vampire. Connor gets angry with Angel for being lied to and takes off. If that wasn't enough, Angel and company then run into Gunn, who is now a vampire.
Upon seeing what has become of Gunn, Angel tells Gunn that he's sorry. Gunn remarks that he figured he would say that, and proceeds to show Angel his base of operations (Angel goes along with it knowing that it is a dangerous situation). Gunn even proceeds to ask for Angel's help in saving LA (he clearly has become insane). Angel lies, saying that he will help him even though he is pulling out a stake from behind his coat. He thinks to himself that Angelus would be proud of his deception, but he hates himself even more for it. Gunn is able to beat him in a fight, and proceeds to use a mystical item to remove the magiks keeping Angel alive. Gunn leaves him there to die. Despite encouragement from Cordelia's spirit, a vision Angel receives nearly leads him to resign himself to death when it apparently shows him that he is the one who will bring the apocalypse to Earth (as Angel, not Angelus), but Connor's encouragement urges him to keep fighting as he acknowledges that he would never allow himself to become what he saw in that vision.
Angel recovers and, after discovering that Illyria has returned to her original form, devises a plan to stop her. However, Gunn doesn't plan on letting them do so, and kills Connor. Nonetheless, Betta George manages to force Fred's memories back into Illyria's mind and calm her down from her rampage. Angel then cradles Connor in his arms, mourning the loss of his only son.
Angel loses himself in his rage, launching himself at the forces Wolfram and Heart have sent in his anger. During their rant at him, Wolfram and Heart unknowingly give Angel the way to free those under his protection, and prevent the loss' of Gunn and Connor both. Knowing that they will take him from the time line,and that for it to work they will have to re-boot to the last moment he was whole, he allows Gunn to kill him.
Time is allowed to begin again, showing that the previous months had taken place during only a slice of real-time, and the team finds themselves back in the Alley. Yet they retain all of their memories, with the help of Spike, Illyria, and Cordelia (his dragon) the once more Vampiric Angel is able to defeat Wolfram and Heart's forces and save Gunn, rushing him first out their headquarters and then to the hospital. As he hand Gunn over, he begins to realize that they aren't the only ones who retain their memories, all of L.A. is aware of what happened, and of his part in saving them. Stepping outside to mourn, he is surprised by a now revived Connor. Hugging him fiercely they are able to talk only for a moment before being interrupted by a crowd of people wanting to thank Angel for his actions.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight
Angel is revealed as Twilight, the enigmatic Big Bad of the Season Eight. Whilst initially portrayed as a violent sociopath (reminiscent of his Angelus persona), Angel/Twilight is in fact protecting Buffy. Since her awakening of the potential Slayers, Buffy had become a prime target from multiple factions, including the military, in order to prevent Buffy being attacked on all fronts, Twilight became a leader for the anti-Slayer groups.
Angel's true goal is in fact to bring about the birth of a new reality called Twilight, of which he and Buffy are the intended "parents", as it is the only way Buffy will survive the inception of the new Universe. After revealing himself as Twilight, he then tells her of his intentions, which she initially agrees with. The two then have sex, transversing space and time, resulting in a large number of demonic entities pouring into the world, as a sort of "afterbirth" for the new reality. After discovering that her friends will die in this attack, Buffy convinces Angel to help her fight the forces of "Twilight".
Powers and Skills
Angel possesses all of the usual power and abilities of a standard vampire, however due to his age, he is considerably more powerful than the average vampire. Angel possesses superhuman speed, strength, dexterity, coordination, durability and senses. His strength and speed are roughly equivalent to that of an average Slayer, and he has been shown on more than one occasion of being able to take the advantage against even experienced Slayers such as Faith and Buffy. His sense of smell is heightened to such a degree that he is able to follow the scent of a creature's blood while in a sewer. Additionally, his eyesight is perfect and he is able to hear the conversations of people whispering from several metres away. As Angel is a vampire, he cannot be killed by conventional means, as he is vulnerable only to fire, Crucifixes, Holy water, decapitation, immolation by sunlight, and a stake through the heart. It is also shown that Angel does not need to breathe, and consequently cannot be smothered, asphyxiated or drowned. As a result of his vampirism, Angel also possesses an Eidetic memory.
In addition to his vampiric powers, Angel is an experienced combatant and is well versed in numerous martial arts, hand to hand techniques and in all manners of close combat weaponry. Angel has also been shown to be an extremely skilled artist, capable of drawing detailed and accurate depictions of people and objects.
Angel is also multilingual and can speak numerous languages including Korean, Greek, Tibetan, Latin, Spanish, Italian, French, Spanish, Russian, German, and Romanian. Angel is also very knowledgeable in the areas of Demonology and magic.
As Twilight, Angel's powers have increased considerably and he is now more powerful than ever.
He is now capable of flight, and his other abilities have increased dramatically. His strength, durability and speed have increased to the point where he is now the most physically powerful being in the Buffyverse, alongside Buffy (after she has absorbed the power of the deceased Slayers).