Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Few Mid-to-Late Season One Thoughts

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"]. All of Season Five. Season One through "Sanctuary".)

I've been away on business for a few days, so I'm trying to play catch-up with the episodes of Angel that I've missed. Wesley Wyndam-Pryce is starting to make himself more useful to Angel, though for every heroic deed he performs (e.g. in "The Ring", shooting the bad guy's gun out of his hand by pinning his hand to the wall with a crossbow bolt), he's sure to mess things up twice as many times (by losing the horsehair unlocking mechanism to the demon, and allowing Darin McNamara to wrestle the gun away from him). I've said before that the writers needed Wesley to periodically screw things up so he could A) keep the scene from ending too quickly and B) reinforce his inferiority to Angel. Although things gradually improved for Wesley over the years, his ineptitude never entirely went away. If you're a major Alexis Denisof fan, it tends to get tiring after a while.

Otherwise, Wesley's character has developed quite nicely over the last several episodes. In fact, I can almost say his character has developed by leaps and bounds in each and every episode I've seen over the last week, culminating (so far) in his declaration of his complete loyalty to Angel in "Sanctuary" by double-crossing the Watcher's Council goon squad and helping to protect Faith (in spite of being recently brutally tortured by her). As Wes stated, he wasn't putting himself on the line because of Faith, but because he trusted Angel.

In the meantime, Wes is starting to gradually become a little less dorky (although there's certainly a lot of room for improvement.) I live for those special camera shots of his lovely smile where, despite his horrible wardrobe, there's no way anyone can disguise the fact that Alexis Denisof is one helluva handsome guy!

Wes and Cordy. I'm enjoying the interplay between Wes and Cordy while I can, since I'm betting that their warm friendship might recede into the background once Charles Gunn is added to the team. Even when they're squabbling, it's easy to tell how much they mean to one another.

It would have been nice if the two had become romantically involved at some point during the Angel series. I don't think Cordy would have been too eager to jump into a relationship with Wes due to his stuffiness and lack of style sense, but I'm sure Wes would have thrown himself wholeheartedly into a relationship if Cordy had given him the least little bit of encouragement. For all of Cordelia's apparent superficiality, she has consistently shown that she's capable of great emotional maturity. With a little bit of finesse from Wesley, I'm sure he would have found a way into her heart, similar to how Doyle was able to do so.

But really, why mess up a good thing by becoming lovers? Don't men and women dream of having a Wes and Cordy type of relationship? It's a lot easier for men and women to become lovers than to develop an affectionate friendship. Two people may talk themselves into thinking that nothing will change if they have sex, but really, there's no going back once a couple become bed partners. By being a romantic pair, Wes and Cordy would have had to have dealt with a lot of new emotions bubbling to the surface. This new dynamic would have required a lot of work and commitment on their part just so they could figure out how to handle their new feelings and put them into perspective.

Although Wes and Cordy as a great team really came to fruition in "The Ring", a particular favorite Wes/Cordy moment occurred in "Eternity" when Wesley came to Cordy's apartment after he received several of her pages. Cordy knew she had messed up by giving the still young but not-getting-any-younger actress a lot of information that could potentially be used to turn Angel into Angelus. Cordy recognized she had a problem, and she unhesitatingly turned to Wesley for help. They were unquestionably a "team" by then, and Wesley rushed to his friend in need as quickly as he could. They then rushed to the office in order to rescue Angel. Now, I realize that Cordelia really didn't have anyone else to turn to, and since they were both in Angel's employ there was a certain "us against him" attitude at play here, but I still think it was pretty obvious that they were firmly in the Best Pals category.

More on "Eternity". This was one of the more annoying Cordelia episodes, since she acted like such an idiot around the Hollywood celebrities. Thankfully, Charisma Carpenter somewhat redeemed herself with her comedic performance as the God-awful Hedda Gabler at the beginning of the episode.

I thought guest star Tamara Gorski (who played actress Rebecca Lowell), although quite attractive, had an odd look about her. I was sure that she was already some sort of vampire or demon, but no, she just wanted to be one in order to keep her youth. I couldn't help but think that this episode must have really hit home for Charisma Carpenter, since she was a 29 to 30-year old actress portraying a young woman just slightly out of high school. As much as I love Carpenter, I never found her convincing as a woman in her late teens, and it must have been a killer for her to try to keep away all of the signs of aging.

Two things about the episode really struck me. One, was when Rebecca was in Angel's apartment trying to seduce him into turning her into a vampire (with considerable help from some sort of potent recreational drug). Angel temporarily turned into Angelus and tried to kill her, after thoroughly terrorizing her, of course. I thought it was one of the better depictions I've seen of the young virginal coquette who's eager to have fun and games with the older man, and shamelessly leads him on, only to become frightened at the thought of actually "going all the way".

Another part I loved was when Rebecca escaped from Angelus through the elevator, only to be gently pulled to safely by adorable Wesley. (I was reminded a little bit of Cary Grant pulling Eva Marie Saint to safety at Mt. Rushmore in North by Northwest.) I can't imagine anything more wonderful than to be rescued by collapsing into Wesley's arms! What a sight that was. I also loved how Cordelia immediately broke the spell by reminding Rebecca that she did something horribly evil to Angel. It turned into a pretty good Good Cop Bad Cop routine by my favorite non-couple.

Lindsey and Lilah. Christian Kane is a fantastic actor. He looks like he's performing so effortlessly on the screen, and I'm so glad his Lindsey McDonald character is starting to hit full stride in Season 1. One of my major regrets in starting to watch Angel halfway through the series run was not being fully aware of the background history between Lindsey and Angel by the time Lindsey reappeared in Season 5 (which was the first time I saw him). As much as Lindsey's character immediately blew me away, I knew I wasn't getting the complete picture. I look forward to seeing his character and his relationship with Angel develop over the next few weeks.

I was a bit disappointed at Lilah's debut, partly because she was appearing at such a seedy venue (the demon fight club in "The Ring".) I'm also thinking she looked incredibly dowdy in Season 1, as though someone was deliberately trying to make her look unappealing. So far, I can tell that Stephanie Romanov and the creators were still working on her unmistakable "Lilah" characteristics, but it looks like Romanov didn't look as comfortable in her role from the very beginning as Kane did with his Lindsey character. We all know Romanov eventually took over her part so commandingly that, in several episodes, the best scenes all involved Lilah! As with Lindsey, I'm looking forward to watching Lilah evolve, and I'm looking forward to what promises to be a great contrast between the two characters.

Faith. Isn't Eliza Dushku fantastic? My God, whenever Faith makes an appearance, the whole show threatens to blow up from the increased energy levels. I loved how, even though she took money from Wolfram & Hart in "Five by Five" and "Sanctuary", she in no way answered to them. When she appeared at the Wolfram & Hart offices, she refused to buckle under Lee's power grab over her. I wasn't sure what I enjoyed more: Faith smashing Lee's head against the table, or Lindsey and Lilah's bemused reaction to the whole scene.

My darling Wesley suffered mightily in the Angel series, so being tortured by Faith was just one more moment of suffering for him I had to endure. It's even more remarkable that Wesley came through for Angel and Faith in "Sanctuary" as I mentioned above. Similar to how I knew I was missing something from Lindsey's performances in Season 5, I knew I was missing something in Wesley's and Faith's performances in Season 4, starting from when Wesley sprang her out of jail.

What's remarkable is that, in Season 4, Wes and Faith had a very nuanced relationship based on not only a basic mutual respect, but something looking an awful like an attraction between each other as Wesley took on his natural Watcher role. I was surprised that, although Faith protested vociferously at times, she ultimately always followed his orders, even though it was pretty obvious he was exploiting her. To be honest, I don't think their interactions in Season 1 provided me with the clues on why Faith so willingly came under Wesley's control in Season 4. I know her primary motivation was to help Angel, but was Faith simply blown away by the complete transformation of Wesley? Did she fall under the spell of his new-found good looks, sexy dark side and commanding personality?

I might as well bring it up now, since I don't know if I'll be able to work it in any place else. There's a scene in "Release" where Faith is at Wesley's apartment and she's all cut up and bleeding. Wesley, in his inimitably sensuous way, is trying his best to attend to Faith and offers to bandage her up. Faith gently but firmly rebuffs him and asks to take a shower instead. What were the inner secrets of that moment? Did Faith rebuff him because, by tending to her, it would have dredged up too many unpleasant memories of when she tortured Wesley?

There's something about Wesley's healing touch, as I alluded to in an earlier post when I wrote that his applying the bandages to Illyria was one of the most erotic moments for me in the entire series. Might the continuing subtext of Faith's possible lesbianism also have had something to do with her drawing away from Wesley? Like, "I'm not emotionally ready for any type of involvement with you?" I'm not saying that they would inevitably have ended up in Wesley's bed, but I do think it would have added one more complicated layer to their relationship. Faith was on emotional overload at that point, trying to sort out her feelings, and didn't need to add anything more to her plate. Although she struck me as the type who was always ready to jump onto a guy for instant gratification, it seemed like the very thought of emotional intimacy was just too frightening for her.

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