Everyone's Turned Into a Monster. How Are You?
Huh. Early Angel/Cordelia. I always forget about that. Also, I feel like that light button-up shirt doesn't really belong in Angel's wardrobe. But he's trying to impress Buffy, so that's alright.
Pretty much any weird early-series behaviour from Angel I dismiss as him trying to act cool to impress Buffy. It's the only way I don't run out the room screaming paedophilia. Like when he follows her into a dark alley in 1.01 "Welcome to the Hellmouth" and won't tell her his name. And then says a bunch of cheesey dialogue. Yeah. He probably rehearsed that. For, like, weeks. He's awkward and insecure enough to do it. You know he is.
Angel's relationship with Cordelia is and always was vastly different from his other relationships in the series (Darla, Dru, Spike, Buffy).
The first three relations are mostly sexual. I'm not really going to get into Drusilla here. I could spend a long time on Drusilla and Angel, but that's not the point right now. Ultimately, he sees her as a work of art, or as his worst sin. He thusly behaves in a manner that is either sexual or guilty around her. There really isn't much comfort or romance here.
Darla and Spike both show some level of interest in Angel(us) in a more romantic or loving sense, but he doesn't seem to be returning any such desires. Angel is the guy that everyone loves, but, as he himself points out, he never loved anyone back until Buffy.
Poor Darla. Poor Spike.
There's so much angst between he and Buffy. Their relationship is pretty much entirely made up of "Oh, but I'm not good enough for you!" and "I shouldn't be with you but I can't help myself!"
When they're on screen together it's like the world has to stop to wait for them to exclaim their love for one another and then sob about how they can't have sex.
Cordy and Wes sum it up pretty nicely in 3.05 "Fredless." They know what they're talking about.
Even this early on in the series, though, Angel is completely relaxed around Cordelia. He laughs at her jokes and seems to be enjoying him and genuinely (but not dangerously) happy.
Even though he and Buffy are the epic couple, their love is so painful, that it sort of detracts from it for me. With Cordelia, everything's alright. Angel's even showing his awkward, dorky-ish side, which we don't really see completely for another four or so years.
Ultimately, Angel/Cordelia is one of those things where, when I'm watching it, I'm like, "Okay. I get it." and when I'm not, I'm just like, "Waait. What."
It's comfortable. It's not some epic, earth-shattering, stars-and-moon-shining-down, and-the-chorus-swells romance. It's a friendship. It's two people who are best friends who care more about one another than anyone else in the world. (Except Connor, but that's fair.) Also they're attracted to one another.
"Hello, salty goodness."
So, even though it is a somewhat strange pairing just to think about, it's actually pretty consistent in how it's shown. And it builds up very, very slowly, and very naturally which is fairly uncommon in the series.
The only other relationship to get even close to that much build-up is Spike/Buffy, but that's for a completely different reason.
And Dawn/Xander but ew!
Also, Angel doesn't seem that pleased that Buffy goes brunette in this episode. 'cause you know he's really only into those bottle blondes. Continuity is fun. =)