Sunday, May 31, 2009

The End of Wes and Virginia

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 "Epiphany", with the exception of "The Thin Dead Line", which TNT opted not to air).

Well, the Great Romance between Wesley Wyndam-Pryce and Virginia Bryce came and went without too much incident. I enjoyed it while it lasted though. Here's a recap of how I saw the beginning of their relationship:

I didn't sense that snack, crackle, pop electric current between Virginia and Wesley the way I did when Lilah first showed up at Wesley's apartment. I did sense two attractive, unattached young people thrown together under circumstances outside of their control, who rather liked what they saw in each other, and decided it would be fun to try to make a go of things.
If I had to describe Wes and Virginia's relationship in just one word, I would say "comfortable". That does not imply that they weren't deeply in love with each other or that their relationship was otherwise boring. It does imply that they were able to get along with each other in a mature way without all of the drama and baggage that comes along with the infatuations and unrealistic expectations that mar the beginnings of so many other relationships. If there were five phases of a romantic relationship, I would say that Wes and Virginia skipped Step I altogether and started off in the late stages of Step II.

A few other words I could use to describe the nature of their relationship could be "stability", "maturity" and "domesticity". Wes and Virginia could rely on each other for support during the down times, and they seemed to have easily settled into a routine where they accommodated each other in their daily lives.

The scene in "Happy Anniversary" where Virginia came across Wes, Cordelia and Gunn wallowing in their misery in their storefront office, seems to really illustrate the maturity of their relationship. When Virginia first walked in, Wes stayed firmly planted in his chair. He did not leap across the room to give her a hug and kiss. As a matter of fact, his expression didn't even change, much less light up at his first sight of her. Virginia did not pout and wonder why Wesley seemed to be neglecting her. She just carried on her conversation as usual. They both acted as though they've gone through the routine of entering within each other's personal spaces a thousand times before, and it was no big deal anymore.

Wes finally did get up, flashed his warm loving smile and gave her a quick but warm loving kiss. Brief as that romantic interlude was, I couldn't help but feel privy to something special, like witnessing a couple who had been married for ten years and were still deeply in love.

In a slightly earlier scene, from "Redefinition", Virginia acted the part of the supporting wife encouraging her husband to look for new opportunities, after Wesley explained to her how he (and Cordy and Gunn) had been fired by Angel. You could tell in that scene that Virginia was very comfortable in Wesley's apartment. Although there's no indication that she had moved in with Wesley, she acted quite natural in there, as though she had already spent a lot of time at his place. (Please also see Alexis Denisof's very literate take on their relationship on this BBC web page.)

Finally, similar to how I felt Virginia's "first" breakup with Wesley (when she found out he had been impersonating Angel) revealed a lot of her initial feelings about about him, the "real' breakup revealed a lot of the state of the actual relationship itself. Wesley and Virginia were both in his apartment. Wesley was sitting on the couch in his bathrobe (nice little domestic touch), and he still relied on his wheelchair to get around after being shot in an earlier episode by a zombie cop. The fact that Virginia was there at all is quite revealing in itself. Although it doesn't look hard, it can be quite difficult, or at least irritating, to take care of someone in a wheelchair. The duties aren't difficult if the person has at least a little mobility, but you do feel tied down by the fact that the person relies on you for almost all of their needs.

Many people who think they have a lot of friends will find out the hard way that no one will come over and help care for them when they're needed the most. The friends will be too busy partying to stay home with a sick friend. Virginia had quite the exciting and active social life, but she preferred to stay and take care of Wesley. She even brought a tea service to him on a tray! Of course, she could have been doing all of those nice things for him because she was ready to break up with him, but I think we can safely assume she would have been there for him regardless. One can certainly envision her doing the same things for Wes if he had the flu.

Virginia then sat down next to Wes on the couch for a nice cuddle, looking very much like they had been doing that very same thing for years. They had the obligatory "ooh, that hurts" moment, filled with smiles from both of them, as she tried to find a way to put her arm around his waist without irritating his wound. As an aside, they didn't look all that comfortable during their cuddle time, but that added to the realism of how difficult it is to be intimate when one person is wounded and in pain.

Wes and Virginia then actually had a very serious conversation, where Virginia discussed her fears about the dangers Wesley regularly had to face, and Wesley expressed doubts that she could ever be happy with someone who would leave a job he loved for a more comfortable lifestyle. Naturally, I was focused on their physical contact, as they gently stroked, petted and kissed each other while they spoke. Wesley seemed to have been a very good cuddler, as I had already noted in his post-coital moments with Lilah. He seemed to really enjoy playing with Virginia's luxurious head of red hair, kissing the top of her head and gently stroking her hair.

One thing that fascinated me was how Wesley seemed to have this thing with both Virginia and Lilah where he would take a handful of hair and maybe give a gentle tug and squeeze, kind of like a very subtle caveman power play for dominance. This gesture seemed a little more pronounced with Lilah, and much more innocent looking with Virginia. Regardless, it does seem fun to pretend that such a harmless little quirk can give us just a little more insight into Wesley's character.

It's been a long time since I've really said much about Alexis Denisof's acting skills. It almost goes without saying that he's a great actor. However, I'd be remiss if I didn't regularly praise Denisof for his performances since, quite frankly, without Denisof, I wouldn't be so infatuated with Wesley. Again, I was impressed with how Denisof could modulate his voice to get his point across, by making it softer, somewhat huskier, with a little catch in his throat, to betray his inner feelings and show his vulnerabilities. Denisof's Wesley could use his voice as a very potent tool for romantic foreplay.

I've also noticed that when Denisof was delivering his most dramatic short lines, particularly during his love scenes, all traces of his English accent could suddenly disappear. (For example, "leave them on" during the famous scene where Lilah attempted to take off her glasses while she was role-playing Fred.) (Also, when he confronted a bound and gagged Justine in his closet and informed her it was time for a boat ride. Not exactly a romantic moment, but,.....) The same thing happened with Virginia, where you hear what you would like to think is Denisof's real American voice as opposed to Wesley's voice saying "This is difficult for you, isn't it.........breaking up with me."

I can think of a few reasons why his English accent would disappear during those situations. The most obvious is, Denisof is not British, so it would make sense that the accent would desert him once in a while no matter how hard he tried to keep it around. It's also possible that his English accent didn't work out too well when he delivered little short bursts of dialogue. Denisof also could have just messed up at times, but the directors would decide not to reshoot the scenes since everything else came out perfect. I would like to think that Denisof perhaps was momentarily carried away while he was acting at times, and "became" the character. Denisof would perhaps stop acting and be himself for a brief instance, resulting in the loss of his accent. However, that seems more like wishful thinking on my part. I would also like to think that his American accent was occasionally used for dramatic effect, as an indication that it was a really important moment that needed to stand out. His accent, in other words, could have been used to startle the viewer! I can only say that, most of the time in life, things that look like there was a lot of planning and foresight involved actually just came about by accident. Regardless, the loss of his English accent was quite effective at times.

Back to the actual "breakup" dialogue. I was particularly impressed with how the writers chose to give Wesley the insight to sense the breakup almost before Virginia anticipated it. Wesley started off with a brave face, as though he'd be able to handle things quite admirably, but his voice modulations and pauses in his dialogue betrayed a huge crack that allowed us to look at his innermost emotions. His voice was absolutely dripping with heartache!

Another gift the writers gave us was Wesley's sensitivity to Virginia's plight, almost putting her feelings above his own. Wesley knew it would be difficult for Virginia to let the words spill out, so he generously supplied the words for her. He brought up the subject on his own, thereby giving her the green light to be able to finish the job with a minimal amount of difficulty on her part. Wes and Virginia's relationship was a lot deeper than I anticipated that it would be. They could even break up with a lot of maturity and class. Wes and Virginia were two beautifully matched people whose relationship was doomed way too early by a fatal flaw that seemed impossible to overcome.

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