Saturday, May 30, 2009

Angel and His Kids

Episodes I've Seen So Far, In Order: (Season Two: "Over the Rainbow", "There's No Place Like Plrtz Girb". All of Seasons Three and Four [Except for "Peace Out"]. All of Season Five. All of Season One. Season Two: "Judgment" through "Happy Anniversary").

One would be less in danger
From the wiles of a stranger
If one's own kin and kith
Were more fun to be with.
-Ogden Nash-

I've never been able to get into the TV series Friends. I've tried to watch the show a couple of times because people with good taste whom I really admire absolutely adored the series. But, alas, I think the longest I could stomach watching an episode was about three minutes.

Which is too bad, because I always liked the basic premise of the series, in that, a bunch of attractive young people share their lives, loves, joys, sorrows and triumphs together just like a close-knit family. A lot of unmarrieds live this way, and I'm willing to bet that a lot more aspire to live this way with a group of beloved pals. It doesn't take much reading between the lines to figure out that Angel has turned into my surrogate Friends.*

Throughout Angel, there were many instances where a member of Angel Investigations would emphasize that "we're family". For example, when Angel first started drinking pig's blood in front of the group. Just like any family there were the inevitable breakups and squabbles, but eventually, the group would always pull back together again.

In real life there's always tension between the desire to hang out with friends and the obligation to spend time with family. Many holidays have been ruined for people who are pretty much forced to mingle with unpleasant relatives at family gatherings. On a personal level, my married co-workers and I often feel a twinge of regret when we see others traipsing to the clubs and pubs after work, while we dutifully head home to our family obligations.

The situation in Angel seems pretty realistic in that the family atmosphere sprang up spontaneously on-the-job. When you spend so many hours of the day with people you work so closely with, you can't help but develop a bond with these people. It's an added bonus if you have something in common with your co-workers and everyone loves their jobs. The Angel family always logged in a lot of hours. They would often head home in the middle of the night, and seemed to get back into the office at a fairly reasonable hour the next morning. I know that Angel's nocturnal habits and their caseload would often dictate their working hours (one can't knock off work at 5:00 pm when a wild pack of demons are still on the loose), but I was always under the impression that the Angel crew spent so many of their waking hours together because they loved being with each other. Ever the pragmatist, I often wonder when they managed to clean their apartments and do their laundry, (not to mention how Wes managed to hook up with nameless bleach blondes during his off-duty time.)

I speculated in an earlier post how the addition of J. August Richards as Gunn would affect the family unit. Technically, I wondered how it would affect the strong bonds between Wes and Cordy, who often acted like two unruly teenagers testing the limits of their indulgent but always-in-control dad, Angel. As an aside, I often thought Wes wanted to be more man-to-man with Angel, but Cordy had a way of getting under his skin and bringing him down to her level. One of my favorite Angel/Wes/Cordy pieces of dialogue occurred in "Untouched", when Angel came across the squabbling duo and asked "Hey, what the hell is going on here?" After Cordelia informed Angel they were discussing whether they should pay Gunn for his work, and Angel's denial of that, Wesley finished with, "Well, our discussions tend to go about three minutes, then it's strictly name calling and hair pulling."

I thought the producers were quite wise to introduce the character of Charles Gunn into the mix quite slowly. (For the record, I think it was a great idea to add Gunn, because they needed the extra muscle. He also added the element of being able to offer up great comic one-liners during battle situations.) With his street background and natural abrasiveness, attempts to integrate him too quickly into the group would have been disastrous. Gunn had little in common with the pampered and relatively inept Wes and Cordy, and he was too much of the alpha male to jump at Angel's commands. For their part, Angel, Wes and Cordy made it very clear that Gunn needed to change to fit into the group, since the group wasn't going to change to accommodate Gunn. It was only after he had brief encounters with the group over a prolonged period of time that Gunn was able to slowly develop personal attachments and really see the possibility of becoming a part of the family unit.

When Angel fired Wesley, Cordelia and Gunn at the end of "Reunion", it seemed like a parent disowning his children. In retrospect to Angel, it could have seemed more like a parent pushing his children out of the nest so they would be forced to make it on their own. Angel must have ultimately been quite proud to see that, instead of each going off in separate directions, Wes, Cordy and Gunn opted to stay together and even start their own version of Angel Investigations. One of Angel's unintended consequences was to end up with a group that was much stronger, competent and closer-knit than when he first pushed them away. They all meant so much to each other. Family was everything to Angel, as we saw in that achingly beautiful imagined banquet scene in "Deep Down" at the beginning of Season 4.

Back to Gunn. I thought J. August Richards was a bit awkward as Gunn at the beginning. He seemed rather unconvincing as a street thug, and didn't seem comfortable delivering his lines. Ironically, it seems that the longer he stayed with the Angel family, the better he became at establishing his street cred. By the time I first saw him in "Over the Rainbow", he was practically knocking me dead with his wicked one-liners.

I'm particularly interested in this particular story arc I'm watching right now where the kids are separated from their dad Angel. I know Wes and Gunn didn't get along initially, for obvious reasons. I know they're bonding now, but by the time I started watching the series for the first time in "Over the Rainbow", they seemed to be back at each other's throats again. I'll be looking to see if they were some sort of affection between the two of them in the Pylean story arc that maybe I missed the first time around. Regardless, it all became a moot point after Fred came on board.

As far as Wes and Cordelia? I seem to sense that they are starting to separate in mid-season 2, but not because of the introduction of Gunn. For one thing, they aren't getting as much camera time since the episodes are mostly focusing on Angel these days. Obviously, there could be a lof of off-the-camera warmth that the audience just isn't seeing. However, Cordelia seems even more cutting in her remarks about Wesley than usual during this story arc. It's obvious that she's acting jealous of Wesley hobnobbing with the stars due to his association with Virgnia. However, is Cordelia jealous of Virginia? Or, did Cordelia always feel superior to Wesley, and is having a hard time accepting the fact that he's hitting her with the triple whammy of having a sex life, a loving relationship, and a celebrity lifestyle?

What about Wesley and Virginia? They're acting like they have a normal relationship, but Wes still seems to spend an awful lot of time with Cordy and Gunn. People who become couples tend to spend way too much time together at first, but not Wes and Virginia. I prefer to think they are acting like grown-ups and have quickly settled into a healthy, ordinary routine.

(*Footnote: I consider this to be a continuation of my post, "The Good Fight", when I outlined my reasons for falling completely under the spell of Angel.)

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