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"The Ring" is the sixteenth episode of the first season of Angel and the sixteenth episode in the series. Written by Tim Minear and directed by Bruce Seth Green, it was originally broadcast on February 29, 2000, on The WB network.


FIGHT CLUB — In pursuit of a missing man, Angel becomes enslaved by a seedy underground gladiator-like boxing ring. Meanwhile, Cordelia and Wesley discover what Angel is up against and try to make their way into the secret operation in order to save him.[1]


As Cordelia and Wesley bicker while using a new demon database, Darin MacNamara stumbles into the Angel Investigations offices, saying his brother Jack was kidnapped the previous night by a group that was not "exactly people." Darin tells Angel he and his brother were not close, since Jack wasn't as successful as Darin. Jack had a gambling problem and, though Darin had paid off bookies for him in the past, had recently refused to help him again. He felt guilty afterward and went to Jack's place in time to see the non-people taking him away.

Angel goes to find Ernie, the bookie Darin wouldn't pay off, and interrupts his poker game to try to get information. He promises that Darin will pay off Jack's debts, but Ernie says it's no longer about money, but about making an example out of Jack. Angel offers him some money and learns that Jack may be somewhere under Beachwood Canyon.

Cordelia and Wesley search the demon database with the information Darin gave them about the demon who took Jack. Wesley argues that by the time Cordelia finds the demon on the computer he could find it in his book, but Cordelia proves him wrong, identifying the Howler demon.

Angel climbs down into a sewer under Beechwood Canyon, where he is attacked by Howler demons. He knocks out two of them then threatens the remaining one. He learns the Howler demons sold Jack, then he asks to whom.

Angel drives to a run-down neighborhood where he sees expensively dressed people lining up to enter a door with no business sign. He pulls the bars away from a basement window and enters the building. He finds a lounge with a bar. A woman sitting alone drops a ticket from her table. Angel retrieves it, studying it before he returns it.

Angel finds another room where two demons are fighting gladiator style. One of the demons is knocked down and the crowd chants: "Killing blow!" A man nearby tosses a knife to the standing demon, who slits the loser's throat. The crowd cheers and the demon, Tom Cribb, is pronounced the winner. The next demon up, Val Trepkos, is announced as Angel spots Jack being led through the crowd.

Angel follows them down a corridor, where they meet up with Darin. Darin warns Jack to be wary of Angel, since he defeated the Howler demons. Angel realizes that he was set up and tries to fight off the men, but they render him unconscious with cattle prods. Jack says that Angel "has some attitude" and will be "a crowd-pleaser."

Angel awakens to find himself in a cage, surrounded by other demons in cages. He has a silver bracelet on his wrist that reads "XXI," which he learns keeps him imprisoned. He tries to converse with his fellow captives, but they don't appear to speak English. Jack tells the slaves that the only rule is that they stay inside the red area marked off around the cages. They can only get out of the red area when their bracelets are removed, and that only happens after their 21st kill. Angel refuses to kill anyone, and Jack replies that, in that case, he'll be the one killed.

The next day, at Angel Investigations, Wesley calls Kate and is disappointed to learn that she doesn't know where Angel is. Cordelia is also worried that they can't reach Darin. Wesley leaves to find Ernie, since the bookie's establishment was the last place Angel went.

In the slave quarters, it is mealtime. Angel objects when Tom Cribb steals food from Mellish, another slave. Tom Cribb threatens Angel, but he backs off when guards appear with weapons. Mellish tells Angel that he can fight his own battles and warns Angel not to "rock the boat." Jack and Darin appear to announce the fight schedule for that evening. Lasovic, one of the demons scheduled to fight, makes a break for it, but he disintegrates when he crosses the red line, leaving only his bracelet behind. Jack chooses Angel to replace him for the evening's fight.

Wesley interrupts Ernie in the act of administering a beating. Wesley asks where Angel is. Ernie asks for money in exchange for this information, but Wesley refuses to pay, produces a miniature crossbow, and threatens to beat it out of him. Ernie draws a gun, but Wesley knocks it out of his hand with the crossbow bolt and draws a handgun of his own. He repeats the question.

While the fights are starting up that night, the woman whose ticket Angel looked at the night before, Lilah Morgan, talks to Darin about Angel. She mentions that he has a soul, and she wonders if this will give him an advantage in the ring.

Mellish offers Angel information on his opponent. Angel says he will not kill anyone. Mellish asks Angel if he is on drugs and explains: "It's not like you have a choice." Angel and his opponent, Baker, enter the ring, and Cribb notes that Angel isn't fighting back.

Cordelia and Wesley arrive at the arena, dressed up in fancy clothes. They realize too late that they've forgotten their fake police badge, but Cordelia approaches a couple anyway, introducing herself as Detective Andrews and Wesley as Detective Yelsew. Wesley flashes his wallet instead of a badge, and Cordelia tells him to take down the couple's license plate number. She checks the couple's tickets and tells them that they're for an unlicensed event. Wesley warns that a raid is going to happen there tonight, so the couple decides to leave, leaving Cordelia and Wesley their tickets.

Inside, Baker beats on Angel, who still won't fight back. Cordelia and Wesley enter, spotting Darin, who's holding a bracelet. Wesley notes that these demon matches have been revived from the Roman Empire and that the bracelets kill people if they're wearing them when they cross the red line. Darin puts the bracelet down and gestures for a guard to drop a knife into the pit. Baker picks the knife up, cutting Angel's arm with it. Angel morphs into vamp face and the crowd chants: "Killing blow!" Angel defends himself from a few more hits, then stabs Baker in the chest with the knife. Once Baker is dead, the announcer says that Angel has made his first career kill.

Angel returns to the waiting room as Jack calls Trepkos and Mellish for the next fight. As Trepkos is leaving, Angel says to him: "If no one fights, no one dies." He tells Trepkos there is "another way out" if the captive demons work together. As Jack gloats, Trepkos instead promises to kill Mellish quickly, which he does.

Outside the building, Cordelia suggests calling the police. Wesley thinks the police are probably involved, and, even if they aren't, that Darin would "destroy the evidence," that is, kill the fighters, the moment they showed. Cordelia then says she and Wesley need to get Angel out of captivity. Wesley says he might be able to make a magical key to release the cuffs if he could get one of them to test on. Cordelia produces a cuff she swiped, the one Jack had earlier, when he wasn't looking.

When Jack congratulates Angel on his victory, calling him "a demon like the others," Angel grabs Jack and pulls him across the red line. He puts Jack in a head lock and demands a key to open the cuffs. When Jack refuses, Angel asks the other demon fighters to check Jack's pockets, but they do not move. Darin and the guards appear. Angel insists that he will not let Jack go unless he and all the other demon fighters are released. Darin shoots Jack, saying: "Now he's my dead brother." The guards cross the red line and knock out Angel with cattle prods.

Angel wakes up in an office where he sees the woman he saw earlier. She introduces herself as Lilah Morgan, a lawyer working from Wolfram & Hart, and explains that she persuaded Darin to sell his contract to the Senior Partners. She tells him that he's free to go. Angel guesses that part of the deal is for him to leave W&H and McNamara's gladiator business alone. Lilah does not deny it. She points out that many people in Los Angeles need his help, but Angel refuses to compromise.

At Angel Investigations, Wesley attempts to open the bracelet Cordelia stole. The work goes slowly. One difficulty is finding a substance that will conduct the right amount of electricity.

McNamara's guards return Angel to the arena, where the other demons call him crazy for returning. Darin snaps Angel's bracelet back on and tells him that he's fighting Trepkos next; if Trepkos wins, Angel will be his 21st kill.

Back at AI, Wesley says he needs something "supple enough to thread the locking mechanism, but strong enough to spring the release." Cordelia removes her horsehair bracelet (from Keanu, her palomino from before the IRS took him away), which does the trick.

At the arena, Lilah bets $10,000 on Trepkos. As Angel and Trepkos enter the ring, Angel tells Trepkos that he will always be a slave even if the cuff comes off. Trepkos promises to kill Angel quickly, and Angel replies that he won't let him. The fight begins and, again, Angel only defends himself.

Cordelia distracts a guard so that Wesley can get to the slaves' quarters. He asks Cribb where Angel is and is told that he'll be dead soon. Wesley announces that he has a key to open all of the demon's bracelets, and Cribb grabs it from him. A guard drops wooden staffs into the pit, and Trepkos charges Angel with one of them. Wesley returns to Cordelia and tells her that someone took his key.

In the pit, Trepkos' staff breaks. Angel knocks Trepkos off his feet, retrieves part of the broken staff, and holds it to Trepkos' throat. Cribb unlocks his bracelet then approaches the arena. Angel lets Trepkos go. Trepkos gets up and attacks Angel from the rear, gaining the upper hand. The crowd shouts for Trepkos to kill Angel, but Trepkos decides not to. Darin sends guards after both of them. Wesley pulls out a gun and tells Darin to stop the guards. Cribb and the other demons storm the arena, which distracts Wesley long enough for Darin to grab his arm. While the demon fighters and the guards face off, Cribb unlocks Angel's bracelet, ironically calling him a loser.

The spectators all leave the arena. Darin is about to shoot Wesley when Cordelia pushes him into the pit. Darin points the gun at Trepkos and tries to blast him for not killing Angel when it would have set him free, but is stopped by Angel, who disarms him. Cribb puts a bracelet on Darin's wrist. Darin is thrown out of the red circle and disintegrates. Cribb unlocks Trepkos' bracelet, and Angel and Trepkos congratulate each other on a good fight. "I could have taken you," Angel claims.

Cordelia and Wesley help Angel out of the building, and he thanks them for finding him before it was too late. Cordelia says that Wesley was the one who figured out how to make the key, and Wesley says that she was the one who figured out that horsehair would work. Angel says that they did good work, even though, as Cordelia points out, they released a bunch of demons.


  • When Cordelia is browsing the demon database, Wesley asks her if they have "the Vigories of Oden Tal," the demons the AI team fought against in the episode "She."
  • Angel has his first contact with Lilah; the lawyer will dedicate to deal with him in the name of Wolfram & Hart until their final alliance in "Home."



Organizations and titles[]




Death count[]

  • Unidentified demon, neck sliced by Tom Cribb.
  • Lasovic, disintegrated in the red line.
  • Baker, stabbed by Angel.
  • Mellish, neck snapped by Val Trepkos.
  • Jack McNamara, shot by Darin.
  • Darin McNamara, thrown into the red line by Trepkos.

Behind the scenes[]


  • The character of Tom Cribb is based on the boxer Tom Cribb (1781–1848), who was one of England's most celebrated champions of the bare knuckle era.
  • Tim Minear comments on the contradiction Wolfram & Hart exhibited in this episode, offering to free Angel, provided he leaves them alone, yet later hire an assassin to kill him in "Five by Five": "At the point Faith was involved, they wanted him dead, but not now. [...] I think if you have a little patience, it will all make sense."[2]
  • Markus Redmond, who portrays Tom Cribb in this episode, also portrayed Griff in the episode "Rm w/a Vu."
  • Mark Ginther, who portrays Lasovic in this episode, also portrays the dealer head demon in "The Prodigal" and Jonathan's demon form in "Life Serial."


  • "The Ring" had an audience of 3.6 million households upon its original airing.[3]

Deleted scene[]

  • The following scene was cut:[4]
    Wesley: "All I'm saying is you might have thought of the horsehair sooner, not that being flung across a room isn't jolly good exercise."
    Cordy: "Speaking of horsehair, where did you find that jacket?"
    Guard: "Mr. & Mrs. Winslow, good to see you again."
    Wesley: "Don't touch me."
    Guard: "Remind me never to get married."

Pop culture references[]

  • Cordelia mentions two game shows while talking about Wesley's lack of a social life: "Every night it's Jeopardy!, followed by Wheel of Fortune and a cup of hot cocoa."
  • Cordelia compares a demon with Betelgeuse, the title character from the 1988 film Beetlejuice.
  • Cordelia mentions dating demon-like men who drove cars from the luxury brand Porsche.
  • Jack refers to Angel as the comic superhero Captain America.
  • When Wesley aims his crossbow at him, Ernie asks if he is Robin Hood, the outlaw from English folklore.
  • Wesley talks about gladiator matches dating back to the era of the first Roman emperor Octavian.
  • Cordelia jokes she preferred a revival of the musical West Side Story over gladiator matches.
  • Darin asks if Angel thinks of himself as Moses, a prophet who demanded the release of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.
  • Cordelia comments: "You'd think people would get enough gratuitous violence watching Jerry Springer," referring to the tabloid talk show.


  • When Angel first wakes up in his cell, he asks the demon next to him: "Hablo Español?" This actually means "I speak Spanish?" "Hablas Español?" is the accurate translation.
  • At 36:13, whilst fighting with Val Trepkos, the red ring on Angel's vest, a result of having been shot earlier in the episode, switches from the right side of his chest to the left before switching back in the next scene.
  • When Angel enters the sewers, during the camera pan around the room, some lighting equipment is clearly visible in the right side of the shot.



  • This episode was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Makeup for a Series.[5]

International titles[]

  • Czech: "Ring"
  • Finnish: "Kehän kovin kundi" (Very Tough Guy)
  • French: "La prison d'Angel" (Angel's Prison)
  • German: "Die Gladiatoren von L.A." (The Gladiators of L.A.)
  • Hungarian: "Az aréna" (The Arena)
  • Italian: "Il bracciale misterioso" (The Mysterious Bracelet)
  • Portuguese (Brazil): "O Ringue" (The Ring)
  • Russian: "Кольцо" (Ring)
  • Spanish (Latin America): "El Coliseo" (The Colosseum)
  • Spanish (Spain): "Combate a Muerte" (Death Match)
  • Turkish: "Halka" (Ring)



Behind the scenes[]



Cordelia: "'Demons, Demons, Demons.' Wow. They put a lot of thought into that title."
Wesley: "It's a demon database. What would you call it?"
Cordelia: "I don't know. How 'bout... 'Demon Database'?"
Wesley: "Ah. A name rife with single entendre."
Cordelia: "Someone ought to create an intra-demon dating base. You know like Archfiend.org, where the lonely and the slimy connect."
Lilah: "How do you feel?"
Angel: "Like I was hit by lightning after the truck ran me over."
Cordelia: "We weren't gonna let anything happen to you."
Wesley: "No."
Cordelia: "Well, I mean, beyond the slavery and the severe beatings and stuff!"


  1. "Episodes - Season One." CityofAngel.com. Archived from the original on February 5, 2005. Retrieved on February 18, 2023.
  2. Edward Gross, "ANGEL: Season One, Episode By Episode with Tim Minear - Part 4." TimMinear.net 5.0, September 26, 2000. Archived from the original on July 30, 2018.
  3. "Nielsen Ratings for Angel's First Season." Nielsen Ratings for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, & Firefly. Archived from the original on July 18, 2008.
  4. Nancy Holder, Jeff Mariotte, and Maryelizabeth Hart. The Casefiles, Volume 1. Simon Pulse, June 2002.
  5. "52nd Emmy Awards — OUTSTANDING MAKEUP FOR A SERIES - 2000." emmys.com. Retrieved on February 19, 2023.