Sunday, June 14, 2009

Dark Wesley Has Arrived

Does it seem like the worse off Wesley Wyndam-Pryce's character was in Angel, the better looking he became? TNT aired two of his most tragic episodes yesterday, "Loyalty" and "Sleep Tight" and, damn, what a fine looking man Alexis Denisof was! Check out these photos from each episode here and here.

Wesley was all scruffy because he wasn't getting any sleep. He was absolutely sick with worry about how the false prophecy that he translated predicted that Angel would kill Connor. The characters seemed to take turns telling Wesley how terrible he looked, but they must have been completely blind. The more unkempt Wesley was, the better he looked. I can't help wondering if the creators did that on purpose just to keep the Wesley fans glued to the screen during his darkest hours.

And was it a coincidence that the very same episode Wesley got exponentially more handsome, Lilah Morgan changed her hairstyle to a more glamorous femme fatale look?

What I don't like about this particular story arc is that it goes out of its way to make things as tragic as possible, which happened with great frequency in Angel. If the creators ever wanted to keep a story arc going, they would introduce some grand manipulator to eliminate everyone's free will, make everyone stupid, and turn them all against each other. In this case, the prophecy was altered by a time-traveling demon. Wesley went out of character by not telling Angel about his suspicions and by meeting Holtz behind everyone's back. Someone should have figured out when three copies of the one-of-a-kind rare book containing commentaries on the prophecies showed up at the bookstore that something wasn't quite right. If Wesley had been in the right place at the right time while Fred was analyzing the blood, he would have found out that Angel's blood was spiked with Connor's blood, which caused Angel to start acting strangely. Obviously, Wesley never would have kidnapped Connor had he known about this.

I think three things held Wesley back from making the right choice and confronting Angel Investigations about his concerns. One, was his over-reliance, not only on his interpretations of prophecies, but even on the validity of prophecies in themselves. Two, was his jealousy over Fred and Charles' relationship, causing him to be estranged from two very close people. And three was his friendship with Angel himself, where he wanted to protect Angel from the terrible agony of knowing that he was supposedly preordained to kill the most precious gift he ever received in his 240+ year lifespan. Sadly, it seemed that some of the finest moments and dialogue centering around the Angel/Wesley friendship occurred in the few episodes leading up to Wesley's kidnapping of Connor.

I think my favorite moments in each episode centered on Wesley Die-Harding his way into Holtz' headquarters. I thought those were important plot points in themselves, but I want to make one observation. When describing the Angel series, it's easy to over-simplify the events. Otherwise you'd be talking about things all day. For example, it's easy to talk about Wesley being all Dark in Season 4. However, his darkness really started in Season 3's "Loyalty" before he kidnapped Connor and got sliced by Justine while she was kidnapping Connor. It's just easier to say Season 3 had the Old Wesley and Season 4 had the New Wesley. Anyway, when Wesley made his dramatic entrances into Holtz' headquarters, the audience was put on notice that Wesley was a completely different man than his previous bookish scholar persona. He had become a much more effective fighter. He was cold, calculating, ruthless, lightning-quick and potentially deadly. He had perfected his steely gaze, and people definitely thought twice against trying to start something with him. I wish Wesley still had some of these qualities in the series finale when he was pitted against his murderer, Cyvus Vail.

I also have to mention that I loved Wesley's second assault on Holtz headquarters, when Justine threatened him with a knife. Wesley did what he did best, by softening his voice, starting to sound sympathetic, then, as he creeped ever closer to her, grabbed the knife, spun Justine around and put her in a choke hold. Instead of getting angry, Holtz was quite amused at what happened, as he calmly walked over and took the knife away from Wesley. Just a few moments before, Justine had fiercely lectured one of her warriors about never letting his guard down in a fight.

One note about TNT. Even though they routinely air Angel Monday through Saturday from 6:00 am to 8:00 am, about one time out of every 50 episodes they will fool me and air the show at a slightly different time. Yesterday, they aired Angel from 6:30 am to 8:30 am, causing me to not record the last half-hour of "Sleep Tight". I've noticed that TNT has a tendency to mess with the timing of some of the most pivotal episodes in the series. So the obvious moral to the story is, always check your TV listings.

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