Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Denial

Episodes I've Seen So Far: (Season Two: "Over the Rainbow", "There's No Place Like Plrtz Girb". All of Seasons Three and Four (Except for Peace Out): Season Five Up Through Life of the Party.)

In my last post, What's Love Got To Do With It, I talked about my confusion in "Salvage" as to whether we saw Lilah in ghostly form or if everything we saw was originating in Wesley's "devilishly handsome" head. I also noted a crucial distinction between the two, as it gives us insight as to whether we were being subject to both Wesley and Lilah's true thoughts (Lilah: The only true thing I ever...) or if we were just witnessing Wesley's inner turmoil (Wesley: It wasn't a relationship.)

Although the scene clearly appeared to be a true dialogue between two different characters, (where Wesley was strongly confronting Lilah about her feelings and motivations), upon reviewing the scene a few more times, it became a lot more apparent to me that we were subjected to a purely solo act from Wesley. Indeed, I believed it was an extraordinary plot device the writers used to allow Wesley to work through his emotions and finally confront all of the doubts and questions he had about his relationship, all of which he had been desperately avoiding while Lilah was still living.

I felt reasonably comfortable with my "all of the dialogue emanates with Wesley" point of view, UNTIL I saw Home, when the now-deceased Lilah first walked into the Hyperion Hotel. Wesley firmly told the group, "She's not here. It's not her. It can't be." Lilah replied, "There's a signed dollar in your wallet that says different", which are almost the exact same words used by Lilah in "Salvage" when Wesley firmly denied that they had a relationship.

So, now, I'm really confused. On the bright side, perhaps the distinction as to who gives voice to Lilah's words in "Salvage" is not as crucial as it appears, since the two huge questions are, "Did they love each other?" and "Did they have a relationship?" And I might as well end the suspense (as if there is any) by insisting that the answers to both of these questions are "Yes".

Here are the links to the specific pieces of dialogue mentioned in this post.

"Salvage", http://vrya.net/bdb/clip.php?clip=5168 (just prior to the decapitation)
"Home", http://vrya.net/bdb/clip.php?clip=5594 (Lilah appearing at the Hyperion Hotel)
"Home", http://vrya.net/bdb/clip.php?clip=5596 (conversation between Wesley and Gunn)
"Home", http://vrya.net/bdb/clip.php?clip=5604 (Wolfram & Hart records room)

I'd love to go line-by-line over every piece of dialogue, but that would be taking things to the extreme. I'll just go over some things that stand out to me.

Mutant Enemy writer David Fury stated that he wrote dialogue for Lilah's character for the very first time in the Salvage episode.

"I was actually really proud of "Salvage" especially for the Lilah and Wesley scene, which turned out better than I imagined. This was a scene I was a little bit worried about because I'd never written Lilah before and I didn't want to repeat [what was already done]. They had other conversations like that but I found a nice balance to it. It was a very moving scene and I'm very proud of that. It's the one that is most fresh in my mind right now of the ones I've written."
I certainly agree that this is probably the most moving of all of the Wesley/Lilah scenes. Both the writing and the acting were absolutely superb. I also thought Lilah was talking a bit uncharacteristically, (can you really imagine Lilah saying something like "...no longer encumbered with the secret shame of our relationship"?), though I could think of three main reasons for the dialogue style change. One reason was David Fury writing dialogue for her for the first time (obviously). Two, Lilah was dead, and of course she could be allowed to be a bit more introspective and "not herself" when she was in that condition and three, perhaps Wesley was supplying her with all of the words through his imagination.

I also wondered about the significance of the two Lilahs speaking within the scene. The First Lilah was the one who actually rose from the dead, was wearing less than glamorous clothing, and still had blood smeared on her. The Second Lilah was the glammed-up, power-suited Lilah, perhaps remembered from past encounters? Was the First Lilah the "real" Lilah, with the Second Lilah being, in Lilah's own words, a figment of Wesley's imagination?

I paid close attention to how the two characters touched each other in the scene. Wesley's only attempt to touch Lilah occurred when he pulled a strand of hair away from her face at the beginning, just before the First Lilah opened her eyes and started talking. The fact that he didn't initiate any physical contact with her afterwards possibly symbolized that he didn't think she was really there (except as a silent corpse). Lilah was the one who initiated the contact thereafter, with the first time being shortly after she rose from the table. The two were standing and facing each other at that point, with Lilah putting her hands on his shoulders, then lightly stroking his hair. Wesley was clearly moved by her actions, but he seemed to keep a slight emotional distance from her.

The First Lilah (the real Lilah?) kept comforting Wesley and stressing to him that he should have been relieved that they were through with each other, and that they both knew their doomed relationship would come to a messy end. Wesley, throughout, kept denying any true intimacy between the two of them, which really surprised me the first time I saw the scene. I thought, gee, if there was any opening for him to pour out his true feelings for her, this would be the time. However, Wesley firmly denied that they had a relationship (and this is when Lilah reminded him of the signed $1.00 bill he kept in his wallet, which he obviously didn't keep just because he neglected to spend it).

Wesley's next denial of intimacy was quite vehement. Lilah insisted (correctly) that he knew how she felt, and Wes angrily insisted "You don't feel!" That seemed like a particularly cruel thing to say to her, but Wesley wasn't over. When the First Lilah continued on on with "The only true thing I ever....", Wesley turned his back on the First Lilah, effectively ending their physical contact, and said sharply to the corpse, "You didn't love me." Then, more wistfully, "You couldn't". Wesley was definitely signalling to Lilah that the conversation was over, which she obligingly acknowledged by vanishing. Wesley, who was always busy maintaining a wall around his heart, seemed desperate to build a second layer of defenses in this scene. Admitting any love for Lilah, or even thinking she had any feelings for him, would have been too much for him to bear.

I thought it was really effective how the Second Lilah showed up almost immediately after the First Lilah disappeared. In answering Wesley's accusation that she didn't feel any true feelings for him, the Second Lilah (Wesley?) responded "We'll never know."

The scene temporarily came to an end, only to be continued after a few more action sequences involving the other characters. When the scene resumed, Wesley and Lilah were on opposite sides of the corpse. This Second Lilah seemed a little less introspective and more analytical. The Second Lilah (his imagination?) again pursued her case by starting to talk about Wesley's attempts to save her. This time, Wesley was seated at a chair, gazing down at her corpse. Lilah circled around behind him where he was seated and, while talking about his supposed darkness and "edge of the razor" mystique, leaned over him and again placed her hands on his shoulders. Wesley briefly gazed at her hand on one of his shoulders, and leaned back almost into Lilah, seeming to dissolve into her touch, with an exquisite mixture of love, pain, tenderness and grief etched onto his face.

Instead of talking about the intimacy of their relationship, Lilah stressed how Wesley was trying to save her from her evil ways and offer her redemption. "Redemption?" asked Wesley, as if he's thinking, "Oh, yeah. That's the ticket! Redemption." Lilah exhorted Wesley to get it over with, and Wesley, filled with his new purpose in life, confidently raised his ax. It was as though the Second Lilah was letting Wesley off the hook by allowing him to channel his emotions to the more noble cause of saving her from a miserable existence of being a vampire. Wesley then tenderly told her he was sorry, in a moment that was just as emotionally searing as his apology to Fred in the Billy episode.

The Second Lilah was about to say that the word "sorry" did not appear in their vocabulary. While she was in mid-sentence, (to me, further symbolizing her words were his own), Wesley delivered the blow, with his final look of grief and anguish betraying all of his prior attempts to stamp away any feelings he might have had for her.

When Lilah appeared at the Hyperion Hotel in Home, and mentioned the signed $1 bill out of the blue after Wesley denied the reality of her existence, Lilah seemed to be gently admonishing him for falsely denying his feelings for her while refusing to acknowledge her feelings for him. A little bit later on, Gunn seemed to quietly relish catching Wesley in a "gotcha" moment when Wesley mentioned the awkwardness of a "loved one" returning after being decapitated. I actually found it quite touching how both Angel and Gunn understood Wesley's grief, with Angel even going so far as to say that, although Lilah was a mortal enemy, he felt badly about her death because it hurt Wesley so badly. Both Angel and Gunn knew Wesley loved Lilah!

Then, we get to Wesley's final act of love, when he unsuccessfully tried to burn Lilah's contract in the Wolfram & Hart records room. "But it means something that you tried", was Lilah's response. Again, like all of Wesley's other heartbreaking scenes, where I thought it would be almost too painful for me to watch, I found the scene incredibly moving, although perhaps a little less moving than Wesley's goodbye to Lilah in "Salvage". (And really, anything occurring after "Salvage" would have been a tough act to follow.)

Wesley seemed less lost in his grief, possibly because he was starting to become an old hand at seeing Lilah's ghost. And really, when Lilah appeared with Angel and the rest of the group, I was puzzled that there was very little energy sizzling from her toward Wesley even when she addressed him, although I thought there was clear tension emanating from Wesley. When they were finally alone in the records room, again, I felt more erotic energy from Wesley than Lilah, although I was still convinced she loved him. Lilah had served some of her time in her own personal hell (and appeared to be getting along quite nicely), and seemed to relish her return as an agent for the Senior Partners. Although I'm convinced Lilah still loved Wesley, I really felt as though she was wisely moving on and was able to start putting that part of her existence behind her.

Some of the after death scenes with Lilah seemed to be somewhat of a throwback to some of the earlier scenes in their relationship, where there was an undercurrent of erotic attraction in their mutual sniping. In my next post I'll be focusing more on the "burning the contract" sequence from "Home", along with the sexual energy that manifested throughout their relationship, which I must admit I'm rather looking forward to exploring.

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