Thursday, May 14, 2009

Hello and Goodbye to Doyle

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 "Hero".)

(Ah, the challenges of trying to keep up a blog about Wesley and the Angel series, when TNT is broadcasting the episodes at breakneck speed. I still have a lot to say about the Weslah relationship (Wesley/Lilah), and I've barely scratched the surface about Illyria, or the rest of Season Five, come to think of it. And now Doyle is dead and gone forever!)

I understand there was a huge outcry against the decision to kill off Glenn Quinn's Doyle in "Hero", which was the 9th episode of Angel. After watching all of the first nine episodes, I can certainly understand why there was such an uproar, since he quickly turned into my favorite character! He was sweet, funny, lovably awkward, handsome in his own way, and just a little bit shy, yet very loyal and brave.

I thought the writing in the inaugural episode of Angel, "City of", was a tad bit clunky, and I thought Glenn Quinn's acting was somewhat tentative. However, I can imagine a lot of the writing and acting in series debuts can come off this way, as the creators do some experimenting to see what will work. The first episode must have been particularly difficult for Quinn since he had the unenviable task of setting the groundwork for the entire series by not only telling the audience all of Angel's life story, but his own story, all in the course of about three minutes.

By the second episode, "Lonely Hearts", Quinn had settled in quite nicely, and by "Bachelor Party", he had given notice that Doyle was a major character to be reckoned with. What a pity that his era at Angel Investigations had to end so quickly!

Thank goodness Doyle ended on several high notes. Not only did he sacrifice himself for the greater good, he also found redemption, and taught Cordelia that there are more important values in the world than designer clothes. Oh, and he finally got to kiss Cordelia, where he passed on his gift (or curse) of the visions from the Powers That Be.

In fact, Doyle's biggest legacy might have been his positive influences on Cordelia. In addition to opening her eyes to the possibility that clothes might not necessarily make the man, he set her on a course where she could learn to be less judgmental of other people, and allow herself to bring out some of her inner warmth and humanity. In short, he helped Cordelia on her transition between being the bratty teenager and becoming a more accepting mature woman.

Why did Quinn leave the series? I've read various accounts that his Doyle character didn't quite fit in with the rest of the cast (you can tell that's untrue just by watching the show), and/or that he was brought on just until the creators could figure out how to bring in Alexis Denisof's Wesley (which I think is partially true, but doesn't tell the whole story.) I've also read rumors about his possible drug addiction causing problems (he died of a heroin overdose in 2002), but I've read even more stories denying those reports.

I think the likeliest reason is that producer Joss Whedon always intended that Doyle would only be around for a few episodes. For one thing, Whedon wanted to show that, although there's a lot of time for hijinks and comedy, being a demon hunter/vampire slayer is a very dangerous occupation. Many people can die, and they can die young. Also, Whedon always likes to push the envelope in order to challenge his audiences and keep them off-guard. What better way to do that than to introduce a popular character who has so much potential for future story lines, then kill him off early?

So, tomorrow, I get to see the debut of my beloved Wesley Wyndam-Pryce on Angel, and try to put myself in the shoes of someone who was completely heartbroken by Doyle's death back in 1999. I can't imagine it was easy for Alexis Denisof to try to replace such a popular actor. I'll find out how good of an impression Wesley's character made in his inaugural episode, and how long it took for him to become an indispensible part of the team.

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