Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Perfect Love

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 "Underneath".)

After watching Season 5's "Smile Time" and "A Hole in the World", I was left with that same glowing feeling I felt after watching several mid-Season 3 episodes, particularly "Couplet". In "Smile Time", I couldn't help but think that what the show really needed was to have Cordelia there to point out the obvious to lame-brained Angel and Wesley, that they were being chased after by two damn-near perfect women. I also couldn't help but think of one of my favorite dialogue sequences between Cordelia and Wesley that occurred in "Billy", when Cordelia encouraged Wesley to go after Fred, while pointing out that the dreaded "office romance" might be the only way to go.

I saw "Smile Time" and "A Hole in the World", in the worst possible way, by seeing them back to back. This is obviously not recommended, since it's just a little too emotionally draining to see Wesley finally get his dream girl (Fred) and then lose her less than an hour later. Like all of the Angel shows, it's best to see an episode, watch the followups, and let everything rattle around in your head for a few days so you can figure it all out. As a result, I'm still illogically caught in the warmth of "Oh, how sweet, Wesley finally got Fred" even though I know she's already gone forever.

I have to admit the first time I saw "Smile Time" yesterday, I watched the show with something approaching mild horror. (Although it started out cute enough with both Angel and Wesley being totally clueless about the women in their lives.) Like my reaction to "Spin the Bottle", again I found myself not fully appreciating a show that was setting out to be light-hearted and funny, although I loved the "fight" scene between "wee little puppet man" Angel and Spike.

Then, finally, the moment I'd been waiting for since late March, when Fred and Wesley finally became a couple. What a cringeworthy moment that was, particularly when they played the dopey "Self-Esteem" kid's song while they were kissing. But hey, my Wesley was finally blissfully happy, and I wasn't going to take that away from him.

I found myself quite unmoved by the kissing scene for another reason, which I feel horrible for having to admit. For the first time since I started watching the Angel series, I found Wesley/Alexis Denisof to be physically unattractive. I didn't like how he wore his hair, and I hated that sweater he was wearing. It looked like he accidentally left it in the dryer for too long, and I definitely do not like ribbed turtleneck sweaters. Since Wesley wore a similar (yet slightly more attractive) turtleneck in the next episode, was there some sort of symbolism for that choice in wardrobe? Like, people who have found pure love wear turtlenecks? Just asking.

Fred and Wesley were more than adequately cute in "A Hole in the World" until the horrible moment struck when Fred became deathly ill with what I'll call the "mummy's virus". Like what happened to me countless numbers of times earlier, I was extraordinarily moved by moments that I thought would be too unbearable to watch. This time, these moments occurred while Wesley was comforting Fred and during his grief upon her moment of death.

I couldn't help but really love Alexis Denisof while he was reading "The Little Princess" to Fred. What a lovely speaking voice he has! I'm so glad he and Alyson Hannigan have a baby daughter, since maybe some day Alexis might be able to read the same book to little Satyana. Heck, I would have melted into a puddle even if he had read "The Dreadhost's Compendium of Immortal Leeches" instead.

Once again, I was amazed at Denisof's acting abilities, in a way I hadn't felt in several weeks. Although his acting has always been outstanding in the series, nothing he did really surprised me for quite some time. I then realized that, as horrible as it was for Wesley's character to have Fred die on him, it gave Denisof another chance to come through with two more brilliant performances; one where he was enjoying total bliss, and another where he was experiencing total grief. In the time that I've been watching him, I've seen Denisof portray Wesley as an adorable bumbling twit who started to mature into a more heroic character. Then I saw Wesley became dark and brooding and, after retreating into his shell for a while, emerged into a better, more centered and more well-rounded person. Then I saw Wesley as his loving, childlike character came to the surface with Fred, which he might have allowed himself this luxury only since he was able to have sucessfully completed his dark phase.

I'm thinking of The Three Faces of Eve, where Eve lived with three very distinct, separate personalities. The theory behind her treatment was that she could only be healed if all three of her personalities were synthesized into one well-rounded personality. I say, why should we try to be middle-of-the-road, well-balanced people all of our lives? Shouldn't we go ahead and indulge ourselves by allowing ourselves to experience the extremes of emotional highs and lows? I say the only way we can mature is by exploring these extremes, and eventually rolling what we've learned into the more well-balanced versions of ourselves.

Denisof's performance must have been particularly challenging for him, since watching a loved one suffer is probably the most gut-wrenching experience a person can have. Wesley was strong for Fred, while gently admonishing her, comforting and consoling her, distracting her, assuring her that a cure would be found, and otherwise capably "being there" for her. I know it's just a TV show, but I was really impressed with how Denisof was able to pull off showing us the emotional strain a person goes through when he is trying to keep up the brave front of having the perfect loving bedside manner, while suffering the horrible grief of watching someone die in front of his very eyes.

The whole experience of watching the moving scenes between Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof in "A Hole in the World", although tragic, left me with such a warm glow from witnessing their perfect love, that it allowed me to watch "Smile Time" again later in the evening with a much different outlook.

I think it was Jack London's White Fang that ended with a former battle-hardened sled dog being embarrassed to admit that he had warm and fuzzy feelings after being rubbed on the belly by members of his adopted family. I can just picture the dog with a big happy grin on his face as he was getting petted, so I started watching "Smile Time" with a similar big happy grin in my heart. All of a sudden, Angel the puppet was cute! And Fred and Wesley were adorable when they watched the puppet show together in the lab. "Self Esteem" was no longer annoying, and it was only fitting that such a wonderful little song was playing in the background while Fred and Wesley, the two happiest people in the world, were enjoying their first kiss. (More or less.)

The series gave a nice send-off for Cordelia, then followed up with a similar nice send-off for Fred. What a beautiful, but emotionally difficult way, for audience members to say their goodbyes to two lovely characters.


Janine Wonnacott said...

Hi. I just found your blog and read this entry. I'm a few years late.

I've had a theory about the turtleneck thing. I'd have to rewatch Season 5 to confirm (oh, the horror), but I believe he started wearing the turtlenecks after shattering that time cube and regaining the memories Angel erased.

He's hiding the scar that isn't there.

Getting his throat cut open has to be one of the most traumatizing thing that's happened to him, physically, (I know he's tortured at various times - by Faith, for example, but this attack was more sudden and intended to kill) then emotionally traumatized as he is unable to protect baby Connor. Then he's abandoned by his friends and nearly murdered by Angel. And then he's forced to confront his abuse of Justine, how his self-hatred led him into a sexual relationship with an enemy.

All this comes flooding back - at once - at a time when he's just watched the love of his life die in his arms and her soul destroyed. He's insecure, unstable, violent, and flirting with alcoholism, and suddenly he's both ashamed of what he's done (or hasn't done - at least what he would have done), and he's faced with Angel's betrayal AGAIN, this time by condemning them, all of them, to work for hell on earth.

He wears a turtleneck to try to hide the trauma that didn't happen but haunts him anyway.

Just my theory.

- a book butterfly

Miriam said...

Hi Janine,

Nice to hear from you! It sounds like a perfectly plausible theory. Unfortunately, Wes started wearing the turtlenecks before he broke the cube and all of his memories came rushing back.

I still wonder about those damn turtlenecks, and the timing of them showing up right around the time things were heating up between Fred and Wes. It's also true that he wore them after Fred died, right up to his own death, which may or may not signify anything in particular. My pet theory that I just came up with about two seconds ago is that the turtlenecks represent his love for Fred (which I admit sounds pretty hokey), so naturally he wasn't going to stop wearing them after she passed away. I also suspect that I have no fashion sense whatsoever and Wes/Alexis starting wearing turtlenecks because someone thought he looked good in them.

Getting back to your theory, I never made the connection between his scar and the turtlenecks, and it still sounds quite promising. Maybe we can refine it a little bit to fit all the pieces together. :-)

Janine Wonnacott said...

Well, he started wearin them shortly after starting to work at Wolfram and Hart. He doesn't shatter the time cube for fun or curiosity. He'd been having... Not flashbacks really, but dreams that time wasn't right, and he'd been hearing lots of cryptic messages from Angel about Connor.

- Angel refusing to take Connor as a client
- angel telling Wesley in lineage that Wes has always had to make all the difficult moral decisions by himself and the he has and has done it well. Wes is thinking only of killing his father, but Angel is clearly forgiving him for the decisions he made with Connor. And given time, Wesley would have gone over that conversation and realized they were talking about different things
- if I remember right, angel more that once says connor's name to Wes, followed by "never mind" or something.

Wes had no conscious idea of what past angel had erased. He thought it was Fred. But trauma is insidious, you can think for years that a trauma never even affected you then suddenly you get PTSD symptoms.

I think he was starting to feel unease about angel and the attempt to murder him. I doubt he even realizes he reacts to the latter.

Miriam said...

Ding ding ding! I think you have a winner there Janine :-)