James Marsters was already a fan-favorite in the Buffy-verse when he was asked to return from the dead on the spinoff Angel, reprising his character Spike. The move was appealing to fans and helped breathe new life into the WB series during its fifth season on the air. Unfortunately, the series still got cancelled by the network, shocking pretty much everyone involved with the show. Recently, Marsters spoke out in an interview to explain why Angel’s cancellation was so damn shocking. Mostly because the ratings had increased so much during the final season on the air. Here’s what he had to say:
We were all bummed! Because we were so proud that the show was doing well. That last season, the audience almost doubled—I think it went up by 80 percent—and we were all riding high, we were all full of ourselves, and we were all thinking, ‘There’s no way they’re going to cancel us now! Ha ha ha ha ha ha!’ And then life happened. It was, like, ‘Nope! You’re gone!’ And the problem was that Joss likes to plan ahead, and this one caught him completely by surprise, so he hadn’t saved any budget or built up a storyline to finish the arc of Angel.
There’s been a lot of talk about why Angel was cancelled at the end of Season 5 over the years and one of the big things that always comes up is how the ratings were actually up rather than down when the WB made the call. Other people near to the show have also surmised that the fact Joss Whedon asked for an early renewal of the series was detrimental to Angel’s future. With a lot of other projects in development, the WB was clearly not ready to make the call early and ultimately that could have been why the network cut the life of Angel short.
While speaking with the AV Club, James Marsters had a lot of positive things to say about his time playing Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. He also told the outlet that as shocking as the cancellation was when it came down the pipeline, he gives a lot of credit to Joss Whedon for helping the series to wrap up on a believable and fitting note, despite the lack of time to write Angel a proper ending.
To his credit, a lot of shows get canceled abruptly, and there is no attempt to bring it to a thematic conclusion. And I think Joss pulled one out of his hat right there and gave us one anyway.
Angel was still in the thick of a major fight when the show got cancelled, but the actor who played Spike is right in saying the show was still able to pull everything together and wrap things up. The Angel finale saw Angel telling the team that it might be their last day on the planet, as they were working to take out the Circle of the Black Thorn. They separated and took down some baddies before an even bigger battle was set up. Unfortunately, the series ended before that plot was ever resolved. Fortunately, it ended on a note that left us wanting more. There's absolutely something good to be said about that ending, as we’re still talking about it more than a decade later.