Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Last of Wes and Cordy

I've never hid the fact that Season 3's "Couplet" is one of my favorite episodes of Angel. After watching it one more time yesterday, I'm convinced that "Couplet" is now my all-time favorite. Besides featuring some of my favorite acting performances from David Boreanaz and Charisma Carpenter, and some equally fine acting from Alexis Denisof as the newly-jilted Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, "Couplet" heart-breakingly marked the end of an era for Angel Investigations. The warm loving glow created by the cast members flared brightly for just a brief moments before finally burning out for good over the next few episodes when Wesley was cast out of the group.

"Couplet" also marked an end of an era for me by featuring what I consider to be the last of the true Wes and Cordy moments, until Charisma Carpenter made her final appearance in Season 5's "You're Welcome". The exchange they had about her "visionity" was vintage Wes and Cordy (with a little bit of Angel thrown in). The previous episode, "Waiting in the Wings" (written and directed by Joss Whedon), had some even better Wes and Cordy moments. Cordelia again advised Wes to make his move on Fred, while Wesley, in a bittersweet throwback moment, temporarily reverted back to his juvenile playfulness of Season 2 by asking Cordy how the ballet dancers would be able to keep time without her rhythmic snoring.

It's telling that in "Waiting in the Wings", Cordelia was totally unaware of anything potentially brewing between Fred and Charles. In this dialogue sequence, where Fred was confiding in Cordelia about her growing feelings for a special someone, Fred was clearly talking about Charles, while Cordy thought Fred was talking about Wesley.

Cordelia, although she could be completely self-absorbed at times, was usually quite perceptive about other people's relationships. I'd like to think that Cordy was so fond of Wesley, and so hopeful for his future happiness, that she was blind to anything else going on, but I'm not so sure. I can't give a good explanation for how Cordelia could have been so wrong about Fred, except for the fact that she was a lot busier with her new and improved demon-visions and being the over-worked office Gal Friday since the Angel Investigations website had gone live.

At the end of "Couplet", Angel sent Cordy off on vacation with Groo. While she was gone, Wes was cast out of the group after Connor was tragically kidnapped from Wesley's arms. Wesley himself was trying to rescue Connor from Angel while being under the influence of a false prophecy planted by Sahjhan predicting that Angel would kill his son. From that point on, I don't think Wes and Cordy had any really meaningful interactions until Season 5.

It's been a while since I really touched on the Wes/Cordy relationship. One of the last times I blogged about the two of them, I wondered how the introduction of J. August Richards as Charles Gunn would affect Wes and Cordy's time together. I had also noticed that Wes and Cordy's special moments seemed to be declining throughout Season 2, and I felt that Cordelia was getting bitchier. I wrote:
"As far as Wes and Cordelia? I seem to sense that they are starting to separate in mid-season 2, but not because of the introduction of Gunn. For one thing, they aren't getting as much camera time since the episodes are mostly focusing on Angel these days. Obviously, there could be a lof of off-the-camera warmth that the audience just isn't seeing. However, Cordelia seems even more cutting in her remarks about Wesley than usual during this story arc. It's obvious that she's acting jealous of Wesley hobnobbing with the stars due to his association with Virginia. However, is Cordelia jealous of Virginia? Or, did Cordelia always feel superior to Wesley, and is having a hard time accepting the fact that he's hitting her with the triple whammy of having a sex life, a loving relationship, and a celebrity lifestyle?"
Although there's no obvious link between Wes and Cordy pulling apart and the introduction of Virginia as his wealthy girlfriend, I can't help but notice that both events started at roughly the same time.

To back up a bit, I'm noticing that I have a hard time reading Cordelia Chase, particularly in her dealings with men who were potential love interests. It led me to believe that Cordelia had somewhat of a commitment phobia. It meant a lot to her if a man adored her, but she could rarely take the next step and reciprocate. For one thing, Cordy consistently let it be known, particularly early on, that she was only attracted to men with lots of money, effectively cutting her off from the vast majority of the male population. Cordelia also had so much fun dangling men on a string, it became too much of a comfortable habit for her. The thought of taking the next step and actually committing herself to someone (with the exception of Groo) was just a little too frightening for her.

God, how I wish I had seen Cordy and Wes together on Buffy the Vampire Slayer! I've read some of the dialogue, and the descriptions of their disastrous kiss, but it doesn't replace actually seeing what they went through together. I feel like I'm working with a major handicap in trying to analyze their relationship. Regardless, by the time they got together in Angel, it was totally obvious that Cordelia did not see Wesley as a love interest. On the other hand, it always seemed that Wesley would have been open to the possibility of having a little something with Cordelia. In their first kiss in Angel's Season 1, (and what a fantastic kiss it was!), Cordelia didn't realize she was kissing Wesley, but Wesley certainly knew who he was kissing. (To top it off, the kiss really blew Cordelia away, particularly when she incredulously found out that she was kissing Wesley. However, she was careful to hide her feelings from him.)

This dialogue sequence in "Waiting in the Waiting" left some intriguing hints about their feelings for each other in Season 3.

Cordelia: You know, there was a time when you thought I was the loveliest thing in the world.

Wesley: Well, I... You're an extraordinary woman. I...

Cordelia: At ease, soldier. Just like to hear it every now and then. I was the ditziest bitch in Sunnydale, could have had any man I wanted. Now I'm all superhero-y and the best action I can get is an invisible ghost who's good with the Loohfah.

I interpreted this to mean that, again, it meant a lot to Cordelia that Wesley was madly in love with her in Sunnydale, but she wasn't necessarily interested in hooking up with him. Wesley, by trying to stammer out a reply, showed that he still had unresolved feelings for Cordy. Cordy finished it off by hiding behind her vision gift/curse as a reason to avoid further commitment.

OK, back to Virginia in Season 2. I'm guessing that Cordelia was like a spoiled brat who had too many toys but didn't want to share. Cordelia made it quite clear that she was not jealous of Wesley because he was in a relationship while Cordelia herself was still unattached. She was jealous because his girlfriend had lots of money and Wesley got to hang out with the Hollywood crowd! Cordelia had grown up in a wealthy household. With her pampered lifestyle, she felt it was her birthright to be able to mingle with the Major Leaguers. When she arrived in LA, she quickly found out that being one of the (formerly) wealthiest girls in Sunnydale didn't necessarily mean she'd be given automatic entrance to exclusive Hollywood society.

Cordelia treated Wes like he was a social inferior. Wesley's family might not have been enormously wealthy, but it was pretty obvious that his family still had a considerable amount of money. They couldn't enjoy a comfortable academic lifestyle and Wesley's exclusive Watcher training without having a tidy little financial portfolio. With his upper crust background, Wesley probably had no problems figuring out which forks to use at the appropriate times during fancy dinner parties, and he seemed to have no problem handling himself at grand social occasions. (He certainly seemed at ease while attending the ballet in "Waiting in the Wings" in Season 3.) If she was smart enough to think it through, Cordelia should have been kicking herself for not realizing that, even though Wesley could look like a dork at the trendiest clubs, he was more than equal to the challenge of mingling with the important monied people who really mattered.

I thought this exchange was pretty important, when Virginia visited Wes, Gunn and Cordy at their impoverished storefront detective agency. Virginia mildly insulted Cordelia by telling her it was "so sad" that Cordelia was willing to take just any old case for money. Cordelia, instead of rising up to her Vicious Bitch label, just took it! I can't quite figure out if it was because A) it was such a mild insult it wasn't worth responding to, B) Cordelia didn't fire back because she liked Virginia as Wesley's girlfriend, or C) Cordelia was starting to accept her status as a lower-class citizen.

Regardless, the true Wes and Cordy scenes were few and far between by this time, for what seemed like a combination of reasons. Gunn was around a lot more, somewhat interfering with their old dynamics, and all three of them were just too busy trying to get Angel Investigations re-established. Wesley was also presumably spending a lot more time with Virginia, and Wes and Cordy probably established an unspoken protocol to step back from each other a bit.

Finally, here's a dialogue sequence I've been waiting to write about for a long time, from Season 2's "Reprise". Wesley, who was still recovering from his gunshot wound, had just broken up with Virginia. He ostensibly called Cordelia to let her know he wasn't coming into the office the next day, but it was clear he was calling because he was emotionally down and needed to hear a friendly voice. Cordelia assumed that Wesley would be spending his evening with Virginia, so she kept the conversation short and simple, albeit rather abrupt. It was telling that Wesley didn't feel comfortable telling Cordelia right then and there that he had broken up with Virginia. It was equally telling that Cordelia, who admittedly seemed a bit preoccupied, couldn't sense that something wasn't quite right with Wesley. I felt it was a clear signal that Wes and Cordy's special relationship was effectively at an end, with just a few brief (but warm) flareups rising up after that.

For a look at how I viewed Wes and Cordy the first time I saw the last "flareups" of their relationship in Season 3, check out my post from last April.

The Wes/Cordy relationship was not a major factor in the Angel series, but it certainly was a pleasant subplot. I'm curious as to whether the creators deliberately wound down their relationship, or if it all just slipped through the cracks for a while. When they brought the Wes/Cordy moments back briefly in "Waiting in the Wings" and "Couplet", I wonder if the writers were trying to rectify their oversight, if they just brought their relationship back as a platform for Wesley to get his thoughts across about his feelings for Fred, or if it was just a way to emphasize the warmth of the Angel family relationships before it all fell apart with Connor's kidnapping.

Unrelated Thoughts.
I can understand Fred looking up to Wesley as The Boss during this part of Season 3, but wasn't it amazing how Charles seemed to be acting like an in-his-place employee as well? Any rebelliousness he showed against Wesley was more of the worker telling off his boss variety rather than a man-to-man confrontation. I wonder if Wesley warning Charles against going behind the group in "That Old Gang of Mine" had anything to do with it?

Wasn't David Boreanaz wonderful with Baby Connor? I understand his wife was pregnant with their first child while they were taping the episodes. Coincidentally, I caught part of an episode of Bones last night (I've never really watched the show), and I saw another great performance from David Boreanaz as he was getting all warm and fuzzy over another baby. I hope the guy volunteers at a children's hospital once in a while, since he really has a knack for dealing with the little ones.

Alexis Denisof continued to amaze me with how he grew more into the role of Wesley the Group Leader in each episode. By "Couplet", he had reached full stride in his leadership role, but he still let Angel know that he was still the real leader of the group. I thought the conversation the two of them had at the rare books store was quite poignant, with Wesley assuring Angel that no one, including Groo, could ever replace him, and Angel was the glue that held them all together.

I'm now convinced that Angel and Wesley had no idea that they were both suffering from lost love. Angel had no idea Wesley was in love with Fred, and Wesley had no idea Angel was in love with Cordelia. Any thoughts I previously had that they were attempting to console each other were incorrect, since they both consistently took what the other said at face value rather than tried to look for deeper meanings. It's not to say that they didn't have a few warm special moments of friendship during this time. They just didn't know the full stories of what was happening in each others' lives.

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