Sunday, June 28, 2009

Meet the Real Lilah

Stephanie Romanov's Lilah Morgan really seemed to come into her own in her relationship with Wesley Wyndam-Pryce in Angel's Season 4's "Supersymmetry". Previously, in "Slouching Toward Bethlehem", which I wrote about here, Lilah had blown any real chance of the two of them having any sort of meaningful relationship when she ordered her evil minions at Wolfram & Hart to tie up Lorne and painfully extract the part of his brain that held his psychic reading of Cordelia.

I had written that Lilah didn't realize how good she had it with Wesley until she realized that she risked losing him over her treatment of Lorne. (The fact that she opted not to have Lorne killed didn't impress Wes much.) She attempted to repair the damage by giving Wesley an expensive present in "Supersymmetry". Here's what I wrote previously about this scene in my "Domination & Submission" post,
In the very next episode ["Supersymmetry"] Lilah tried to "bribe" Wesley with the expensive gift while Wesley cheated me out of what promised to be a particularly steamy love scene with her as he scampered off to see Fred's lecture. Lilah tried to keep the relationship going throughout the rest of Season 4, but no matter how hard she tried, and no matter how hard she tried to re-assert her dominance, Wesley was in complete control from therein out.
and here's what I wrote about this scene in my "Desperation Time" post:
As I mentioned in my "Dominance & Submission" post, Lilah knew that she was in serious danger of losing a great thing (Wesley as a bed partner), so she went into full damage control mode after Wesley confronted her in her apartment. Lilah bought Wesley the expensive helmet from a suit of armor as a peace offering. Before opening the gift, Wesley wasn't terribly gracious about seeing Lilah again, but did seem genuinely touched after he opened the gift. Like I mentioned in "Dominance & Submission", I was terribly disappointed that Wesley had to rush off to see Fred's lecture. But, tellingly, he left Lilah alone in his apartment, indicating that their relationship had advanced to such a level that he had (and still had, despite their spat) a high level of trust in her. A part of me also wonders if Wes would have been so eager to rush off to see Fred if Lilah hadn't tricked him into getting the Angel crew to abandon Lorne.
In some ways, this scene featured some of Romanov's and Alexis Denisof's best acting. Romanov's Lilah was particularly poignant as she looked so nervous and hopeful as Wesley opened up the gift. This isn't the most romantic analogy in the world, but she reminded me of a young newlywed bride trying out a new recipe on her husband, waiting to see his reaction. Lilah was definitely at her softest and most vulnerable in this scene, and you could just see the look of bewildered frustration on her face when Wesley gave her the brush off. Lilah must have been thinking that it was one of the few nice and noble things she had done for anyone in her life, and see how far it got her?

Denisof, for his part, could have easily played it safe by acting simply as the peevish lover throughout. Instead, as usual, he added layers of complexity to his performance. He portrayed Wesley as being genuinely annoyed when Lilah showed up unannounced just as he was rushing off to see Fred's lecture. Wes was sarcastic with Lilah as he acted underimpressed that she was giving him a peace offering, but changed to showing that he was genuinely touched that she had bought him such an expensive, thoughtful gift. Lilah started kissing Wesley, and he hungrily joined in on the kisses, until she informed him that she was staying the entire afternoon. Wesley, without explanation, firmly, but in his sexy understated way, informed her that he had to leave. With that, he left this particularly lovely version of Lilah alone in his apartment, where she immediately spotted the physics article he had been reading that had been written by Fred.

Throughout the scene, Denisof did a fine job of portraying Wesley's conflicting emotions as he wrestled with his still unresolved anger with Lilah, his re-emerging feelings for Fred, and his still considerable remaining feelings for Lilah. It seemed Wes wasn't quite ready to break up with Lilah, and perhaps didn't want to either. However, things weren't looking good for their relationship at that time, and Lilah knew it.

I couldn't help but think as I watched "Supersymmetry" and the remaining episodes of the Lilah/Wesley relationship that Wesley seemed to follow the textbook example of how to best conduct yourself when you're breaking up with someone. Be gentle, be firm, and don't look back. There's no need for prolonged explanations and tearful regrets that would only needlessly give the other party reason to hope that they could get back together again. This fit in quite well with Wesley's general "cruel to be kind" actions he exhibited throughout the Angel series.

Revealingly, Lilah went to the lecture in order to spy on Wesley and Fred. Although that was not a noble thing to do, it did further reveal her vulnerability. When a character, who has been working with her "game face" on throughout the entire series, starts showing some genuine human emotions, we enjoy seeing the process, even if she isn't technically doing the right thing.

I can't figure out how to write this without sounding slightly ridiculous, but I'll take a stab at it. Stephanie Romanov pulled off a very difficult feat, by acting as a woman who had been putting on an act all of her life, then having to deal with her own confusion as she realized that she couldn't keep her personal feelings from coming to the forefront. So, in a way, Lilah, at an advanced age, was painfully dealing with a first love.

I could make a very case for comparing Lilah with the ancient demon Illyria, and the difficulties Illyria had with handling human emotions after she took over Fred's body.

Idle Thoughts: The camera work was outstanding in the "Supersymmetry" lecture scene, as we looked through Lilah's eyes while she was looking at Wesley and Fred. I loved how we, through Lilah, saw little nerdy Fred on the stage, just before the camera switched to the glamorous Lilah. The contrast was delicious! Lilah was probably thinking, "I can't believe I'm losing out to this twig!"

Angel and Lilah had one more marvelous moment together, as Angel ripped the ragtop off of Lilah's Mercedes while she was driving out of the parking structure. I loved the look of relief on Lilah's face when she discovered, "Oh, it's just Angel." Angel and Lilah just acted so comfortable with each other.

I could do an entire blog post on this, but didn't Wesley blow it with Fred? He should have stuck to his guns (in his Wesley the Watcher persona) and tried to talk Fred out of killing Professor Seidel. But, no. He had to act like Wesley the working-too-hard-to-impress-Fred and enable her with her scheme. Didn't she give Wesley a good zinger when she informed him that Charles didn't have it in him to help her kill Seidel, and that's why she loved him? First Lilah "played" him, then Fred.

Why did Wesley always look sexier when he was mad at Lilah? He had a "you look cute when you're angry" thing going on, which always made it difficult for me to believe him whenever he told Lilah to get lost.

I thought Wes and Lilah's kissing sequence in "Supersymmetry" was one of their better ones. In an odd way, I felt like I was being abandoned when he left the apartment, because (as I mentioned above) I felt like he cheated me out of a wonderfully protracted love scene.

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