Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Desperation Time

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 "A Hole in the World".

I mentioned in my "Dominance & Submission" post how I felt that the incident where Lilah duped Wesley into luring the Angel Investigations team away from the Hyperion Hotel, leaving Lorne unprotected, appeared to be the beginning of the end of their relationship.

I didn't fully realize what the ramifications of Lilah's actions in "Slouching Toward Bethlehem" would be on their relationship until very recently. Although Wesley and Lilah had been busily enjoying each other in bed for quite some time, "Slouching Toward Bethlehem" reinforced that they were both still working for opposing enemy camps. Lilah needed that information extracted from Lorne, almost regardless of the cost. Wesley needed to find out what Lilah was up to in order to warn Angel Investigations, and, probably more importantly, to start the process of working his way back into the group.

The fact that Wesley had to know that the Angel family would briefly suspect him of betraying the group yet one more time had to hurt him deeply. Although that incident did not keep Wesley from eventually joining the group, it did effectively push his return date back somewhat. Tragically, and ironically, both Wolfram & Hart and Angel Investigations suffered mightily at the hands of both The Beast and Jasmine. If they would have known about this ahead of time, it would have been in the best interests of both sides to have called a temporary truce and worked together to oppose those powerful forces.

I've never been really satisfied with the dialogue where Wes confronts Lilah for "playing him". If you're two romantic spies, there's a huge difference between ferreting out information from the other (e.g., relying on a slip of the tongue, or looking through the other person's file cabinets) and tricking the other person into actively betraying their own group. I'm sure Lilah realized the difference, but she opted (as was her right) to go on the counteroffensive by accusing Wesley of acting inappropriately with the information that was given him. So what was Wesley supposed to do? Not do anything to warn anyone? In retrospect, he should have realized it was a trap, but he didn't, just as the extremely skillful Lilah had planned. If he hadn't fallen into the trap, I'm sure Lilah would have been able to pull up Plans B and C in order to achieve her goal. I'm wondering, why did Lilah have to involve Wesley at all? Also, did she really think that Wesley could realistically ever be able to trust her? That would have been asking way too much from Wesley, just like it would have been just as unrealistic for Lilah to ever be able to trust Wesley.

Was this some sort of payback from Lilah because Wesley kept Justine locked in the closet and pulled up Angel out of the water, all without her knowledge?

So, regardless of whether Lilah had in fact crossed the line as far the rules of engagement for Enemy Lover Spies, Wesley certainly believed she had, which was all that mattered. And really, the line was going to be crossed by one of them sooner or later, since they both knew they wouldn't be able to keep their relationship going forever. It truly was a relationship that was doomed from the start.

In getting sidetracked again, I want to mention the length of their relationship (six months, per Angelus) and the possibilities of their encounters that occurred offscreen. Is it safe to say that most of their encounters occurred in Wesley's apartment? Did Lilah prefer it that way because she, in essence, might have considered visiting Wesley akin to going into the office? Did Wesley only make the one visit to Lilah's apartment? Come to think of it, wasn't Lilah's apartment awfully drab? Did they ever eat out at any restaurants together or spend any quiet evenings at home watching movies? I'm under the impression that Lilah did most of the calling and setting up of their assignations. Did Wesley ever call her out of the blue and invite her over, or buy her thoughtful little gifts?

As I mentioned in my "Dominance & Submission" post, Lilah knew that she was in serious danger of losing a great thing (Wesley as a bed partner), so she went into full damage control mode after Wesley confronted her in her apartment. Lilah bought Wesley the expensive helmet from a suit of armor as a peace offering. Before opening the gift, Wesley wasn't terribly gracious about seeing Lilah again, but did seem genuinely touched after he opened the gift. Like I mentioned in "Dominance & Submission", I was terribly disappointed that Wesley had to rush off to see Fred's lecture. But, tellingly, he left Lilah alone in his apartment, indicating that their relationship had advanced to such a level that he had (and still had, despite their spat) a high level of trust in her. A part of me also wonders if Wes would have been so eager to rush off to see Fred if Lilah hadn't tricked him into getting the Angel crew to abandon Lorne.

The scene in "Apocalypse Nowish" where Lilah dressed as Fred (complete with glasses) also appeared to be a slightly desperate attempt by Lilah to keep the relationship going. As wonderful as the scene is, with all of the delicious power fluctuations of dominance and submission going on, I was still puzzled by a few aspects when I first saw the scene. First, Lilah always had a way of getting under Wesley's skin. She sensed his vulnerabilities and went after them, often quite cruelly. Most men would have forcefully shown her the door (as Wesley failed to do right away in their first encounter in "A New World".)

Wes would scowl and glare and stare her down, and give her those "dirty looks" that would get her going in the first place, and even reject her, but it all seemed to be part of a game from the very beginning. (Did anyone notice in their first encounter how Wesley kept focusing on the more interesting parts of her body before he'd look her straight in the eye?) Lilah knew what turned him on, (something I didn't fully appreciate on first viewing these scenes), which came up several times whenever Wes would ask something like, "You think you know me?" This seemed to be the basis for all of that "subtextual and textual" kinkiness that Lewis Call talked about so wonderfully in his Slayage article.

And this is why I ask a lot of "Who is the dominant one?" questions over and over again. To kind of repeat my point in my "Dominance & Submission" post, Lilah knew going into their encounters that she would have to start off with the strong cutting remarks. Lilah's cruel taunts would allow Wesley to get all steely-eyed and take control over the situation. Except, Lilah was the dominant one because she allowed Wesley to take over, but perhaps Wesley held the ultimate authority because it was always so important for Lilah to keep the game going, etc.

So, on thinking through all of the above, I came to realize why Lilah taunted Wesley and made fun of Fred during her little charade. Again, other men would have shown her the door. And indeed, I would have thought Lilah might have softened up a bit because she was trying to get back in Wesley's good graces. On first glance, it appeared that Wesley might not have been amused, but he had to smile because it was such a cute performance from Lilah. Wesley again came up with "You think you know me" using that deceptively soft, seductive voice of his. Lilah confidently answered "Better than she ever will", not knowing that she, once again, had crossed over the line.

Although the audience was rewarded with probably their hottest sex scene at that point, Wesley surprised Lilah by ordering her to "leave them on" when Lilah attempted to take off her glasses. Again, Stephanie Romanov's eyes told the entire story as she briefly betrayed her feelings of not only submission, but defeat, before she composed herself and settled into the groove of their lovemaking. This was not Wes simply imagining he was having sex with Fred. He wanted to humiliate Lilah and show her once and for all who was boss.

I can't help but think that after Wesley got what appeared to be the permanent upper hand, he might have gotten bored with the entire relationship. He had to know how important it was to Lilah, didn't he? Did the thought of settling down in a more conventional relationship where Lilah acted like she loved Wesley scare him or disgust him? Was he still upset with his own humiliation of unwittingly betraying his friends? These factors certainly set the stage for the final breakup in "Habeus Corpses".

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