Thursday, June 25, 2009

Mrs. Robinson

I'm surprisingly ambivalent about the Wesley/Lilah love scene in the Angel Season 4 episode, "Ground State".

Although I love the wild rambunctiousness and heavy breathing of their foreplay, I thought the segments where they kept flinging themselves on top of each other were too abrupt and too well-choreographed. If they flung each other around in mid-sentence once in a while the scene would have looked a lot more realistic.

I talked about this scene once before in a prior blog post, which I wrote about in the context of their joyous power plays for dominance:
The steamy love scenes were filled with these fluctuations of power, as witnessed in "Ground State" where the two were engaged in heavy panting foreplay around Wesley's apartment, passionately flinging each other around on the furniture and the floor. (As a side note, for whatever reason, most of the acting in this scene did very little for me, except for at the very end.) The dialogue was a delicious hodgepodge of each trying to outdo each other for domination. Towards the end, Lilah was on the floor, with Wesley on top. Wesley told Lilah to "shut up" about her evil plans. Lilah said, challengingly, "Make me!" Wes said nothing, but raised his eyebrows, then lowered himself down the length of her body, out of view of the camera. Lilah suddenly started laughing in delight, since Wesley was obviously performing oral sex on her.

Oral sex is always an interesting case when it comes to the subject of domination. Who's the dominant power? The giver or the receiver? Lilah offered a direct challenge to Wes to shut her up, where she was giving a clear invitation for him to take charge. Wes rose up to the challenge, so to speak, by taking on the possibly submissive role of offering pleasure."
First, I'll contradict what I wrote last month and say I really enjoyed the acting. (Not to mention that they were both looking mighty fine.) What I love about re-watching a series is being able to pick up on little things that I missed the first time around. There was a lot more going on in this "Ground State" scene than I originally thought. Their love scene possibly marked the beginning of the end for Wesley and Lilah as she, playfully, but nonetheless, challenged Wes for hiding his slave girl and rescuing Angel. The first time I saw this episode, for whatever reason, I didn't think Lilah minded Wesley's actions that much.

Another difference was, although Lilah (as always) was still acting like she was putting on a role-playing performance (as sex partner), you could really tell the difference in Alexis Denisof's performance between the very beginning of the scene, as he went from passionate lover, to later on when he became someone who had to answer for himself. What was even more impressive was how he could go from the real Wesley having a discussion with Lilah to Wesley the sexy role-playing partner almost within mid-sentence! He knew he needed to justify his actions, but he didn't want that to interfere with a chance for hot sex! Damn Alexis for his fine nuanced characterizations that defy my ability to describe them!

When Lilah revealed that "I just want you to know why I'm going first tonight", we found out that, off-screen at least, there were times when Wesley was the first to leave. Did Wesley ever leave Lilah's apartment? As far as we know, they always had sex at his place. Did Wesley ever kick Lilah out of his apartment when he had to leave, or did he let her stay? I made (kind of) a big deal out of it in a previous post when Wesley ran off on Lilah in order to see Fred's big lecture event, and he trusted Lilah enough to leave her alone in his apartment.

There was also a running theme throughout their relationship that someone always had to rush off for some reason or another. Did they ever get to spend the night together? I actually thought that aspect of their relationship was pretty realistic, in that, both of them had to put in a lot of crazy hours in order to make a living. I know first-hand how plans can change, so it made perfect sense to me that Lilah would think ahead of time that she could stay for several hours, only to find out at the last minute that she couldn't stay very long.

I thought Lilah's reference to how she could act as Mrs. Robinson from The Graduate for Connor was quite interesting, particularly in light of a certain passage in Lewis Call's "Sounds Like Kinky Business To Me". Call set it up by talking in terms of Lilah offering Wesley a sensual and consensual alternative to Wesley's bondage activities with Justine. Call continued on "She [Lilah] teaches Wes how to play safely, sanely and consensually—for somebody who's "evil," she actually gives him a tremendous boon."

(Interestingly enough in this scene, we finally do see an actual prop for kink, which occurred when Lilah slid Wesley's belt off, wrapped it around the back of his neck, and brought his face down to hers. I suppose some people could make a case that this marked a "next step" in their relationship, but I think of it more in terms of a continuance of what they were already doing.)

Call's ideas serve up a lot of food for thought in the realm of "experience" versus "maturity". I think we've been given clues in the past about how old both of them should be. Wasn't Wesley supposed to be a brand new graduate from the Watchers Academy when he joined Buffy the Vampire Slayer in 1999? He could have still supposedly been in his 20's when he met up with Lilah, which I find that as hard to believe as Cordelia celebrating her 21st birthday. Lilah might have been a little bit older than Wesley, but not by much.

Despite all of this, I'll just say I might reasonably be able to assume that Lilah is a little bit older than Wesley.

I've said many times in previous posts that I thought Wesley might have been having a wilder, more active sex life than he was letting on to his friends at Angel Investigations. I always point out to this BBC link where Alexis Denisof himself (in an interview conducted before his relationship with Lilah) acknowledged the same possibility.

So, Wesley might have had more technical experience than Lilah (I've written before that she probably didn't have much of an active sex life unless she was really skilled at keeping it hidden), but she definitely had the upper hand in the maturity category, becoming Wesley's very own Mrs. Robinson. Who knows what Wesley was up to. He might have been frequenting S&M parlors (Mistress Spanks-a-Lot?), or just spending time with inexperienced or uninterested girls where his encounters simply devolved into a series of emotionless one night stands. Lilah provided him with a gloriously exciting monogamous relationship that he didn't seem to fully appreciate. Call himself hints that Wesley might not have fully appreciated everything that Lilah provided for him in their bedroom playground until she was already dead. Wesley loved his bad girls (Lilah correctly knew he was turned on by the thought of evil plans), but even after Lilah's death I don't think he allowed himself the possibility of even thinking about entering into a lasting relationship with another partner in kink. (I hope I remember to talk more about this after I review Wes and Lilah's scene in "Salvage".)

Idle Thoughts: Sadly, one of the last true Angel/Lilah scenes showed up in "Ground State". I really felt that by this point, Angel and Lilah were really starting to enjoy their still-deadly serious encounters with each other. Their little "Lilah, I'll kill you if you don't give me the information" routine was almost a lovely role-playing ritual in itself.

Naturally, what really interests me is the part where Angel told her he could "smell you and Wesley all over each other". Although that's kind of an "oops" moment for Lilah, I didn't get the sense that Angel was horribly upset about it.

One advantage of Angel's advanced age was that he had seen everything, and he had developed a higher understanding and tolerance for human frailties. Angel didn't get all ballistic over the idea that people were having sex, (unlike Cordy and Fred). Good grief! The man smelled sex on people probably every day of his life and he couldn't have cared less. Angel knew exactly what Wesley was going through and could perfectly understand why his best male friend (who kidnapped his child, then rescued Angel from the ocean floor) could start sleeping with his sworn enemy. Angel knew all about dichotomy, and secret lives, and nuances in character, and the need to sometimes live your life outside the box. Someone who shows a human weakness is not necessarily Evil.

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