Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sweet Virginia and Wesley the Watcher

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 "The Trial").

Wesley and Virginia. I don't know how to spell it, but I'll try.

Mmmh, mmmh, mmmh!

What beautiful sweet kisses the two of them shared in "Guise Will Be Guise".

I enjoyed seeing the contrast between the beginning of Wesley's relationship with Virginia as opposed to the beginning of his relationship with Lilah. I also got a chance to observe Wes in action, to see how he made his moves on women. With Virginia, we were able to see the buildup of the relationship, starting with their first introduction, followed by their very nice little flirtations leading up to their final moments of intimacy. With Lilah, the action was much more abrupt. They were literally at each other's throats (rather, Wes was at Lilah's throat) one minute and finishing up in bed the next. Wes and Virginia's romance seemed so natural and normal!

Virginia reminded me a lot of Cordy, in that she was quite spirited and not afraid to speak her mind. (I loved the "You go girl" look Cordy gave her when Virginia punched her Dad's lights out.) Virginia may have been manipulated by her father into leading a sheltered life, but she knew a lot about how the world operated. She also didn't suffer fools gladly, and she couldn't help but be mildly disgusted with Wesley's initial fumblings as he tried to establish himself as the real Angel. However, after Wes saved her life a couple of times, first at the wizard supply shop, then from the thugs who were supposedly guarding her bedroom, Virginia recognized Wesley's bravery and started to allow herself to have feelings for him.

(As an aside, I wonder why Wes didn't stress throughout the episode that he impersonated Angel only because the thug who kidnapped Wes threatened to kill Cordy if they didn't produce Angel right away? Even a lot of the episode recaps I've read fail to mention that fact. That scenario is a lot different than the implication that Wes was impersonating Angel just for the thrill of it.)

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.

Wesley the Watcher. Key to the whole episode was Alexis Denisof performing in what I'll call his Wesley the Watcher mode. I think Wesley was a natural-born Watcher, and it was too bad that throughout Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, he was never allowed to fully develop the skills he needed to perform that role to the best of his ability.

What do I mean by Wesley the Watcher, besides the obvious BtVS context? To me, I think of how Wesley seemed to have a natural affinity for nurturing and protecting young women. In other words, he adored women! He was gentle and caring while offering them the necessary guidance they needed in order to allow themselves to reach their full potential. Sometimes he actively advised his women, while other times he led by example or was simply there for them (like with Cordy). Of course, he was always around to try to rescue them when they got into trouble. Wes could admonish his girls, be forceful, and also be downright abusive (think of his dealings with Bethany and with Faith in Season 4), but he usually only acted that way when he was attempting to achieve a higher goal.

By the way, if Wesley Wyndam-Pryce told me to eat my vegetables and go to bed at 8:00 pm, I'd probably do it.

Off the top of my head, I can think of Wesley acting his Watcher role (sometimes, with only brief durations), with Cordelia, Rebecca in Season 1's "Eternity", Faith, Bethany, Virginia, Fred, Justine (in an odd but still unmistakable way), and Illyria. (Update: As an afterthought, I'll add Lilah, particularly after they broke up.) Some of the girls accepted his guidance a little more graciously than others. (Think of the contrast between Faith in BtVS and her Season 4 appearances in Angel.)

Wes only had romantic relations with Virginia and Fred, but sometimes, while watching the episodes, I felt like screaming at his women "What's wrong with you? Lean over and kiss the guy!" Virginia was the only one who was smart enough to figure out what a terrific guy he was and make a move on him right away. (It took Fred forever to figure that out.)

I've said before that one of the biggest tragedies of the cancellation of the series was how we were cheated out of enjoying Wesley the Watcher work a miracle with his biggest case, the ancient demon Illyria. By that time, Wesley had gone through a lot and toughened himself up considerably. He was older and wiser, and, although tragically flawed, would have been the perfect guide for Illyria. Illyria could sense that aspect of Wesley and was more than willing to put herself into his hands. In essence, Illyria could have been his biggest triumph.

Wesley and Virginia. OK, back to Virginia. Right away, after meeting Virginia, Wesley went into his Watcher mode and gently set some ground rules that she seemed only too willing to accept.

I also loved the acting and the dialogue in her bedroom after they came back from the aborted shopping trip. Virginia sat cross-legged on the bed while Wesley walked across the room and sat next to her. Smooth operator that he was, while acting all concerned and asking how she was holding up (actually, he was pretty sincere), he sat right next to her, then shifted his leg over ever so slightly so it was resting up against her knee. I thought that was a nice touch, and it left me wondering again, was that carefully choreographed by the director, did Alexis Denisof miss his mark and have to move his leg over so he'd be making physical contact, or was that an improvised move?

Believe it or not, I think my favorite piece of dialogue had to do with when Virginia admitted:
VIRGINIA: I think about getting my own place, a little apartment. A job, something silly like, um, a perfume sprayer, or working at a tire store. (They both laugh.)

WESLEY: A tire store?

VIRGINIA: I told you it was ridiculous.

WESLEY: No, no. It sounds wonderful! Rotating tires and inflating -- things ... Your father would not allow it I'd imagine.....
The way Wesley's face lit up when she said "tire store" and the sheepish grin on her face, coupled with how Wesley leaned back with joyous laughter, was adorable. Wes was not laughing at her or making fun of her. He was absolutely delighted that she trusted him enough to be able to open herself up and reveal her silly little innermost secrets. Her secrets weren't in the least bit glamorous or even mysterious!

Virginia put her head on his shoulder, and Wesley had to be thinking that things were working out as planned, but I think she surprised him just a tiny bit by kissing him first. "Virginia!" he mildly exclaimed, but kissed back eagerly enough. During the whole kissing sequence, I laughed at how he quickly settled into the routine and was warming up quite nicely, only to be forced to pause a bit, a minor inconvenience, when the subject of the "the curse" came up. I also loved how he went from kissing, to pausing to talk a little too much, trying to keep "in character", only to keep interrupting himself by throwing himself back into her kisses.

During the next scene, when she was sleeping in bed, and he was along side her, resting on one elbow, gazing down at her, I wondered if what they shared was a "typical" night for him. As I mentioned in a previous post, Alexis Denisof himself brought up the possibility that Wesley's sex life might have been a little bit wilder than what he was letting on. I also mentioned how Wes seemed to have compartmentalize his women into the "naughty" and "nice" categories, with the "bleach blonde" and "Lilah" easily falling into the "naughty" categories. Interestingly enough, Wesley seemed to put Virginia into the "nice" category, although she herself probably would have put herself into the "naughty" department.

I know I'm letting my imagination really run wild here, but I'm thinking the "nice" girls were the ones he allowed himself to fall in love with (which is how I interpreted his expression while he was gazing down at Virginia), while the "naughty" girls were the ones he enjoyed mostly for sex. (Not that there's anything wrong with that, as long as that's all the girls were after.) (Which also caused all sorts of confusion for Wes in Season 4 when he discovered he had fallen in love with his sexmate Lilah).

SO, I'm interpreting his moments with Virginia as showing us that he obviously had experience with women, but was still vulnerable and sweetly just a little unsure of himself whenever the "right" girl came along. (Remember how hopeless he was with Fred? It seemed like the more Wesley truly loved a girl, the more inept he became as a suitor.)

Another surprise for me was that, in a way, the scene where Wes sneaked out of Virginia's bedroom was in some ways just as erotic as their kissing sequence. They both had that delicious afterglow that lovers exhibit after they share a nice warm night of sex, right down to the one extra parting kiss. Unfortunately, the moment was interrupted by Cordy's arrival, which resulted in the "unmasking" of Wesley.

Ironically, at that moment, we were left with the best clue as to just how much Wes meant to Virginia, when she angrily declared, "I talked to you. I trusted you. You lied to me. Come to think of it, you actually put my life in danger. I was walking around thinking I had vampire protection. Here's the funny part: I finally thought I had a friend."

It's doubtful that she ever had any of these feeling for any of her previous lovers (the chauffeurs and bodyguards).

In a way I kind of wish I hadn't watched most of the other episodes of Angel before viewing this one. Then I could have been delightfully surprised when Wesley took charge at the Hyperion Hotel and started ordering Angel, Cordy and Gunn around while explaining his plans for rescuing Virginia. I could have also been once more surprised by his bravery as he courageously fought to protect the woman he loved.

As it was, I could still appreciate these "Wesley the Brave" scenes for what they were, as important plot points that showed the continued growth of Wesley's character.

Back to Wesley the Watcher again. I'm still struggling to put these ideas into words because I simply don't have a lot I can compare this aspect of his character against. This shows that either Alexis Denisof was quite skilled at inventing a very unique character, or I just haven't seen enough movies and TV shows.

I mentioned above how Wesley adored women. Stereotypically, this can occur when someone grows up feeling particularly close to his mother. (I talked about this aspect a bit in this post.) I've lived long enough to have seen several men like Wesley who, although they are not effeminate, seem to prefer to hang out with women, as opposed to a bunch of testosterone-dripping alpha males. The "He-Man" types tend to feel threatened by or feel jealous of men like Wesley. They tend to hurl insults at them and openly question their manhood. "Gay" is a typical label these alpha males will attach to the Wesleys of the world. For the most part, women will adore men like Wesley, although they themselves (like Cordy) may also fall under the spell of the stereotypes and make constant remarks, teasing or otherwise, about these mens' sex lives and manhood.

It might be easier to describe what Denisof's Wesley the Watcher is not rather than is. Wesley is not a diabolical Svengali-like character controlling a woman's every move (with at least one notable exception). I've used the word "paternal" before to try to describe his interest in Fred, but also admitted that, no, that's not quite right either. Wesley is not simply a teacher or mentor or even a boss, because those words imply a certain emotional distance between him and his charges. I can't even say Wes is a master manipulator who uses every means necessary to get his girls to do his bidding because, most of the time, they tend to keep showing their independent streaks.

Ironically, his biggest success story might have been his slave-girl Justine, the one girl who hated him the most. As much as she kept hurling verbal abuse at Wesley, she ultimately did exactly what she was told with minimal threats from Wesley. (Now, I know he kept her chained and locked in a closet during a particularly dark period in his life, but when she was on shipboard with Wesley, she obeyed him 100% even though she seemed to have ample opportunity to escape or inflict serious injury on Wes.)

I might be on the right track if I throw out the idea that Wesley might have been getting some sort of mild erotic charge out of dealing with these women, with the playful interplay between his attempts at domination and the women's (usually sucessful) attempts to avoid submission. Safe sex at its finest, I'd say.

Cordy came pretty close to hitting the nail on the head in an episode I saw today, "The Shroud of Rahmon", when she complained, (after Wesley read out-loud for the billionth time in his life about virgin sacrifices), about how it's always female virgins who have to be sacrificed in the rituals.

She then snapped, "This has nothing to do with purity. This is all about dominance, buddy. You can bet if someone ordered a male body part for religious sacrifice the world would be atheist (snaps her fingers) like that." Alexis Denisof gave her this fantastic uneasy look that, besides contemplating the horrors of losing a "male body part", perhaps also meant, "If I didn't get to read about virgin sacrifices all of the time, then these books would just be way too boring."

So, unless I can get something else figured out, I may just have to admit that, just maybe, Alexis Denisof added a new stock character to the screen.

No comments: