Saturday, June 27, 2009

$1.00 Relationship

I'm currently working on a series of posts about all of the special Wesley/Lilah moments in Angel: The Series Seasons 3 and 4. What an overwhelming task it is to talk about Season 4's "Slouching Toward Bethlehem", since it contains a microcosm of their entire relationship! Wes and Lilah's scenes portray love, commitment, domesticity, betrayal, absolute joy, sadness, and the realization that, in a way, their "relationship" started and ended at almost precisely the same moment in time.

When I first saw "Slouching...", I actually enjoyed their scenes because of the great emotional depths both Alexis Denisof and Stephanie Romanov brought to their performances. Now that I realize the full implications of their actions, I'm almost too heartbroken to watch this episode anymore.

I was astonished to find out that I had written extensively about their scenes in "Slouching" in three prior posts. If you're really interested in my thoughts, I recommend you read these first. I apologize in advance for how this particular post jumps around all over the place.

"What's Love Got To Do With It", April 23, 2009, where I talk about the landmines associated with the words "love" and "relationship". This also includes a fantastic YouTube video where Alexis Denisof discussed the differences between his relationship with Lilah and his relationship with Fred.

"Lilah & Wesley - Dominance & Submission", May 3, 2009. I discussed a lot of the power play fluctuations between dominance and submission in a lot of their scenes, including a few separate discussions on "Slouching Toward Bethlehem" (Keep scrolling through the post.).

"Desperation Time", May 5, 2009. I wrote about the latter part of Wes and Lilah's relationship leading up to their breakup. I started off with an in-depth discussion of how Lilah's actions in "Slouching Toward Bethlehem" doomed the relationship. I also discussed how I never cared for Lilah's justification for "playing" Wesley.

Here are some other helpful links.

"Slouching Toward Bethlehem" (Wikipedia entry)

"Relationship" Dialogue - Buffyverse clip

"No Rest for the Wicked" Dialogue - Buffyverse clip

"If I Thought You'd Ever Trust me" Dialogue -Buffyverse clip.

Random Commentary on "Slouching Toward Bethlehem"
I've read a fine essay or comment somewhere (and I apologize for not being able to locate it again) where the author seemed to think that when Lilah informed Wesley that Wolfram & Hart knew what they were up to, she was trying to warn Wesley that she would be expected to use him for the law firm's advantage. To "play him", in other words. I don't think I would have been able to have picked up on the "hint" any better than Wesley would have, since it was always implied that he had to be wary of her. "Jenoff" at Peripheral Visions had a particularly lovely interpretation of these scenes at Peripheral Visions.

In this episode, the audience was given clues that Wes and Lilah's relationship was still on a growth trajectory. Instead of the usual quickie sex scene, where Lilah had to rush out the door as soon as possible, we saw them both as being relaxed, drowsy and incredibly happy in each other's company. It even looked like they were going to spend the night together! It's not to say they never spent the night together in their off-screen encounters, but actually seeing them sleeping in the same bed added one more homey domestic touch to their relationship.

When Wesley uttered the forbidden word "relationship", it seemed as though a magical spell was broken, but in a good way. They no longer had to pretend that what they were going through was purely physical. Wes and Lilah could actually dare to hope, if only for a moment, that they might have had some sort of future together.

The fact that Wes and Lilah already had an off-screen conversation about "relationship" proves that they were trying their best to deny their feelings for each other.

I'm still trying to sort through my thoughts of the signed $1.00 bill left on the floor. Wesley's dejected look on picking it up was just too heartbreaking for me to even think about at first, and I still have a hard time watching that scene. I'm not sure Lilah deliberately left the dollar bill behind. Mistakes happen. Case closed? Either Wes was devastated because he felt Lilah never intended to keep the bill, or because Lilah didn't make the effort to tuck the bill safely away as soon as he signed it, or he felt it was a genuine foreshadowing of the end of their relationship. Wes, with all of his scholarly training in ancient myths and legends, was a firm believer in omens.

Alexis Denisof's acting was superb throughout the entire episode. What a range of emotions he had to go through, all with his unique, understated Wesley spin. The New Dark Wesley was becoming less brash, and more tender and vulnerable.

Stephanie Romanov was less sympathetic, but you could see that her character of Lilah was softening. Even though she must have been thinking of horribly evil things while she was in bed with Wesley, I'm convinced she was starting to really fall for Wesley.

I'm still working on figuring out what Lilah meant when she said "A drop by. That's a surprise." when Wesley showed up at her apartment. My best guess is that she showed up a lot more at his apartment. I speculated in the past that he had never spent the night with her at her place before, but now I'm not so sure, simply because there was an implication in "Ground State" that sometimes Wesley was the first one to leave.

Wes seemed to warm up to the idea of their "relationship" more quickly than Lilah did. When he delightfully arched his back and spread his arms in the "surrender" pose after he found out he lost the bet, he might have literally been fully surrendering not only his dollar bill, but himself into the relationship. I didn't think Lilah fully warmed up to the idea until she "won" their little argument at her apartment, after Wesley came over to confront her about the Wolfram & Hart security detail extracting some of Lorne's brain tissue. By then it was too late. Wes was already disillusioned. Lilah didn't fully appreciate what she had with Wesley until she lost it. From that point on, Lilah had to work pretty hard to try to keep her man.

In some ways, relationships are all about timing. Quite often, two people simply are not in the same place at the same time. I think early on, Lilah was more into Wesley simply because she was the pursuer and aggressor. I think Wesley was the first to really warm up to the idea of a real relationship, but then he started pulling away from her practically the moment she started to really fall for him.

It was interesting how Lilah didn't allow Wesley's betrayal of her (when he kept Justine in the closet and rescued Angel) interfere with their relationship. However, Lilah's betrayal was a real relationship-killer for Wesley. I refuse to think of Lilah's evil deeds and Wesley's good deeds on equal terms, and I think Wesley felt the same way. Both sides didn't deserve equal consideration.

Idle Thoughts. I thought Fred's character progressed quite nicely through Season 3, then started falling apart in Season 4, particularly when she had to start shouldering a lot of Wesley's work. Fred became flighty and more juvenile. I thought this scene really brought her lack of sophistication home, when Wes informed her that relationships are not always about "holding hands". Wes (as Wesley the Watcher) and Fred were mentor and pupil at that point more than ever, showing that it would have been inappropriate, if not disastrous, if the two of them had gotten together in Season 4.

When Wesley first started falling for Fred in Season 3, he was incredibly sweet and gentlemanly around her. That was the Wesley Fred remembered when she was missing him in Season 4. When Dark Wesley started making his moves on her in Season 4, Fred didn't quite know what to make of it. He came on way too strong. Dark Wesley was still trying to figure out how he fit in his new world, and unfortunately he made some of his mistakes with Fred. But can I really say he made mistakes? He was a different person by then. If he would have acted in a way that didn't scare off Fred, then he would have been putting on a performance, which is never a good way to start off a relationship.

There was a lot of potential for the electric sparks to start flying around Wesley and Fred, particularly as they started acting on their feelings for each other while they were still at least nominally attached to Charles and Lilah. I know a lot of people adored the two of them together, but Fred and Wesley as a couple never did much of anything for me. I find that confusing because, from everything I've read, Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker reportedly got along quite well with each other.

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