Friday, April 17, 2009

Lone Wolf

Episodes I've Seen So Far: (Season Two: "Over the Rainbow", "There's No Place Like Plrtz Girb". All of Season Three. Season Four: Up through Slouching Toward Bethlehem".)

Despite what I complained about in my previous post, I've accepted that Wesley Wyndam-Pryce underwent a huge character transformation towards the end of Season Three. Gone was the lovably inept boyish scholar whom I fell in love with, to be replaced forever by what I'll call the Lone Wolf, a character who had sunk into the darkness and depths of his soul, who looked to no one for support or solace. Wesley finally turned into a true "rogue demon hunter" referred to in one of his earliest Angel appearances.

Alexis Denisof is quoted as saying that in Season Four, Wesley is

"...flirting with and investigating the dark side of himself. He's looking at his relationships with all the people and with Angel, and he's definitely looking at his whole purpose and trying to figure out how he wants to be...."
I'm trying to find parallels to Wes' character, both as the lovable twit and as the Lone Wolf, and I'm unable to find any good ones. The closest parallel I can find to the bookish scholarly Wesley is Indiana Jones, where, in the classroom, Indy was a pedantic instructor at best, while out in the field he was as macho as the best of the superheroes. Out of the classroom, Jones became an almost completely different person when he donned his dusty old hat and traveled off to his next round of exotic adventures. Wesley always seemed to retain his complete personality regardless of the setting. In his case, different characteristics simply came to the forefront as necessary in different situations. When Wesley acted quickly and forcefully in battle situations, often leading the charge, I never forgot for a moment that he was primarily the cute, cuddly scholar.

As far as his Lone Wolf persona, like I hinted at in my last post, I immediately thought of Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name character who appeared in those marvelous Sergio Leone westerns. The Man with No Name, (who could also be known as "The Man of Few Words") had a murky past and was known for his moral ambiguity. We could only guess at some of the motivations for his actions. There was no overt tragedy in his life that we know of that set him off on a road to revenge, where there was a clear delineation (in his own mind only) between Good and Evil. The Man With No Name was not out to be the avenging angel. He was apparently only out for himself. This is in opposition to other stock Hollywood Lone Wolf characters whose previous lives were images of perfect bliss until bandits swarmed and raped and/or killed the wives and murdered the children. (Examples include Clint Eastwood in The Outlaw Josey Wales, Charles Bronson in Death Wish, and Mad Max in his own trilogy of films.) Even Justine in the Angel series followed this outline, where she performed almost unspeakable acts in the name of Good while avenging her sister's brutal death at the hand of vampires.

In a way, when Wesley took on his dark persona, he didn't become a completely different person than he was before. He still exhibited flashes of humor, although it was a deep sense of irony he exhibited more than anything else. The steely resolve and the ruthlessness we had seen in earlier episodes, along with the darkness that was always within him, came out front and center. What intrigues me is that Wesley didn't need an extreme personal tragedy, like the murder of close family members, to set him down his dark path. It was more like his own Series of Unfortunate Events; his unhappy childhood, being the butt of cruel taunts for his inept ways, the loss of a soul mate (Fred) before he even had a chance to be able to call her "his girlfriend", his excruciating feeling of guilt for losing Angel's son Connor despite his honest intentions of doing the right thing, having his throat slit by Justine, and being left to die a cruel, slow and lonely death.

I'm convinced that Wesley could understand Angel's extreme hatred for him for losing Connor, and not be surprised that Angel would try to kill him in a fit of anger. However, the timing for the attempted murder was horrible, seeing as how Wesley was fighting for his own life in the hospital at the time. Perhaps the worst part for Wes was when Fred showed up in the hospital room, told him she understood the situation, yet told Wesley in no uncertain terms that he betrayed the group and would never be welcomed back. Angel Investigations was the only family Wes had, and was a wonderful, loving family at that. The time he spent with Angel, Cordelia, Charles, Fred and Lorne were probably the best times of his life. From what I had seen of the series so far, around the time Connor was born, Angel and Wesley were probably at their closest period of friendship, particularly in their mutual commiseration at the loss of their girls. (Fred to Charles, and Cordelia to Groo).Tragically, Wesley lost everything he loved dearly in almost a blink of an eye.

During times of abandonment, intense physiological changes can happen in a person's body. Stress hormones are released while the body drastically cuts back on the production of the opioids that give us a calmer, more serene state of mind. These hormonal changes affect our cardiopulmonary functions and manifest themselves in feelings of terrifyingly real gut-wrenching pain. Any one who has every experienced a breakup knows it hurts. The physiological stress suffered by baby animals who have been taken away from their mothers in lab settings has also been well-documented.

Wesley wasn't cruelly abandoned once, but three times in rapid succession. The first time occurred in "Waiting in the Wings", where we witnessed Wesley literally falling to his knees when he found out he lost Fred after he saw her embracing Charles backstage at the ballet after they all fought off a particularly vicious band of demons.

The second period of abandonment occurred in "Forgiving" when Angel tried to strangle him in the hospital. Finally, the third time was in "Double or Nothing", when his muse, his idee fixe, the girl of his dreams, angrily told him to never return to the hotel.

I can think of a few movies where the (anti)hero tries to seek revenge on the people who abandon him, but Wesley chose not to take that route. Much has been written about Wesley sinking down into the depths, (as though that was a character deficiency), and perhaps even flirting with Evil, but that's not quite how I see it. Darkness doesn't necessarily equate with Evil. Wesley's life had been turned completely around, which he even recognized in "Billy" where he told Fred he didn't know what kind of man he was anymore.

In my mind, Wesley took the only intelligent route that was possible. The only way you can really face and reflect on your grief and misery is by plunging into the depths of darkness and staying there for a while. When you're alone, you have plenty of time to sort out what has happened, your relationships, and how you fit into the new life patterns that are emerging. While being hidden away in the darkness, there is no better time to re-examine some of your long-held cherished notions about love, fairness, and the gray areas between Good and Evil. Wesley's experiences had changed him permanently and there was no going back to his old way of life. It have been a mistake for him to have plunged back into the world without fully understanding who he was and how everything around him had changed. There certainly is something to be said about not being able to go back up until you've hit rock-bottom.

No comments: