Angel seems to be a neverending arch of consequences and well-intended deeds that just can’t go unpunished. Angel is constantly making decisions that seem like the right thing to do at the time but always seems to turn up with another twist later. It’s probably a nice effect of that curse.
In “I Will Remember You” he fights a demon and becomes mortal. Everything seems to be hunky-dory and sex and ice cream until it turns out that he has been taken out of the fight for Good, and that Buffy will spend the rest of her (now shortened) life trying to protect him. He makes a choice (without consulting Buffy) to take the day back and trade in his mortality. The consequence is that Buffy loses that memory while he carries it. In “Hero” Doyle sacrifices himself to save a group of half demons, like himself, and with a final kiss, passes his only valuable possession on to Cordelia — his visions from The Powers That Be. Something he was never supposed to do, or so we are lead to believe. That point is still up for debate.
But have them Cordy does. And destroy her they almost do, but not quite. Doyle’s sneaky little transfer (because it was, in all regards, a violation of Cordelia’s autonomy to have them shoved on her) builds in Cordelia like a ticking time bomb, slowly killing her over time. Yet she holds on, and no one notices. Cordelia, prior to becoming a demon or a higher being, is strong without being supernatural. Eventually she is given a choice, and though we later discover that this choice is really a setup for the mass catastrophe that is going to be Season 4, Cordelia chooses Angel and his mission after seeing how it would destroy anyone else to have them. She chooses the visions that have been killing her, and asks to be made part demon so that she can keep them without them killing her. While this undermines the idea that a woman can be strong without being supernaturally imbued, we get to see Cordy being strong for Angel because she has grown as a person, emotionally, and physically.
The results of that choice, are something that can be discussed ad nauseam, and have been before. Cordy being hijacked is a point of contention with me, and I watch S4 just to get from S3 to S5. See s.e. smith’s posts about Cordelia for further explanation. My favorite character deserved to a better ending than that. And even though I have written about her before, I need to revisit this. I don’t want to go into this at length now.
Angel is forced to free a man, by Wolfram & Hart, in order to save Cordelia, and it turns out that he is pretty much misogyny personified.
Wesley’s choice to betray Angel and steal Connor opened the path for Connor to grow up on Qor’toth, and made him the angry and hurting person that he was. His entire life was a result of manipulation, first by ancient powers to create him, then by Holtz, then by Jasmine. Connor’s anger was the weight on one side of the fulcrum that convinced Angel to take the deal with Wolfram & Hart, eventually resulting in the alteration of everyone’s memories, and prolonging Cordelia’s life, allowing her time to come back to him in the 100th episode, “You’re Welcome”.
Faith, whose choices and consequences deserves a whole post of her own, makes some important choices on Angel that viewers of Buffy alone never really see, and that Buffy really neglects to give her credit for. Faith, with Angel’s help learns to take responsibility for her poorer choices in Sunnydale and is a model prisoner until she is attacked by someone paid to off her by those killing Potentials. When Wesley comes to her because Angelus is loose and the Beast is trying to provoke him into helping he and Cordelia-Goddess-Vessel, she makes the choice to bust out of the Pen and help. She uses a vampire drug to bait Angelus into drinking from her, knowing it could very well kill her, but hoping it will do what must be done. For the first time Faith goes all the way as a Slayer, and winds up as the Guide in Angelus’ dream sequence (or whatever). In the end, she stops Connor from dusting Angel after his soul has been put away, and she is able to return to Sunnydale with Willow for the Big Finish, a redeemable player.
When Fred first touched Jasmine’s blood she saw the Goddess who forced her way into the world for what she really was. Fred couldn’t stop until someone else saw what she saw. She needed Angel to see that their free will was being taken away. In the end, she enabled Team Angel to stop Jasmine from taking over the world by peaceful force. It wasn’t until Lilah showed up to reward them with the LA branch of Wolfram & Hart that she realized that what they had actually done was, indeed, as Lilah had said, traded World Peace for Free Will. That moment revealed in Fred’s character just how much she believed that what they were doing was right, and how much she believed that she was on the good side until she saw the consequence. It was the first time she doubted their mission.
The amulet given to Angel by Wolfram & Hart by Lilah, I believe, was indeed intended for Angel to wear in Sunnydale in the case that he didn’t choose to take their deal. The way that it captured Spike and tethered him to the firm demonstrated that they intended to have Angel one way or another. Angel gave the amulet to Buffy to use as she wished, to allow it to be worn by a champion. Buffy insisted that Angel leave, to be the second defense, just in case. She gave it Spike, who wore it proudly, but who, in doing so, was wrenched into a hell devised by W&H to hold onto the wearer. Instead of redemption it brought more work at the hands of the Senior Partners in their production.
Gunn’s brain modifications give him confidence that he really, IMO, didn’t need. Gunn was more than a hired brute, but the modifications made him feel like he was more than he had ever lived up to being, that he was giving more to the team than in the past. When they went away, he panicked, and allowed himself to be manipulated by the doctor into signing papers to help import his illegal artifacts. One of those was an ancient sarcophagus requisitioned by Knox, unbeknownst to Fred. When it ended up in her department, her innate curiosity got the best of her and Illyria was set loose upon her. Gunn set off a chain of events that allowed Knox to fulfill his plan to bring Illyria back in Fred’s body so he could worship them both together. I honestly believe that he death is what ultimately causes both Wesley and Gunn to be so saddened and able to allow themselves to die, Wesley in “Shall Not Fade Away”, and Gunn later in S8 in the comic, when he is changed to a vampire.
Perhaps another re-watch would reveal more overlapping themes. I actually enjoy catching the moments where the two shows arc into each other. The thought that there is often not a clear-cut Good or Bad choice, that many times what seems like the true path to doing the right thing could result in harm somewhere along the way, even if you never see the end result yourself.