Friday, July 3, 2009

Almost Goodbye to Lilah

Angel's Season 4 episode "Calvary" is obviously the least favorite of my Wes/Lilah episodes, since it's the one where Lilah Morgan was murdered by the demon-possessed Cordelia. Thankfully, there's still a lot of wonderful depth to this episode as Wesley Wyndam-Pryce and Lilah tried to figure out new ways to deal with one another despite their recent breakup. More fine performances from Stephanie Romanov and Alexis Denisof certainly didn't hurt matters.

First, I can't help but mention that, during this episode, at least Lilah finally got a closeup view of the Angel Investigations team in action. Despite some of their apparent bumblings, (Think you can do a better job, Lilah? You try to save the world from a couple of apocalyptic-bearing demons!) she probably couldn't help but admire the team members' courage and dogged determination as they tried to carry out their mission. Angel Investigations members weren't drawing six-figure salaries and looking forward to comfortable retirements. They didn't have millions of dollars worth of resources at their disposal. Their only motivation was to do what they thought was right while fighting for the side of Good. Lilah instinctively, and tragically, threw in with the "Good and Plenties" when the chips were down.

So, Lilah snuck in through the sewer system to pay Angelus a visit. I was impressed that she wasn't afraid to get her hands dirty in order to do the Senior Partners' business. What surprises me is that Lilah didn't head out of town and put herself under the protection of another Wolfram & Hart office, seeing as how they supposedly had branch offices in every major city of the world. Maybe she would have been seen as a failure? We all know what happened to "failures" at Wolfram & Hart! Lilah might have felt that the only way she could get her "pretty things" back was by defeating The Beast and maybe re-opening the Los Angeles office.

By the time Lilah was skulking around in the Los Angeles sewer system, she had lost her conduit to the Senior Partners. One thing that always surprised me about the Senior Partners is that they didn't seem to be totally omniscient, and seemed to rely on an elaborate network of spies in order to stay informed. Lilah could certainly feel that she was on her own at that point, and she could have been seriously considering her options. Later on, Lilah appeared to indicate that she was a free agent who shifted sides as necessary. We'll never know if Lilah would have ever shifted back to Wolfram & Hart on her own, standard perpetuity clause notwithstanding.

Lilah also impressed me by seeming to have the most success against Angelus' psychological mindgames. Again, we'll never know if Angelus would have really made a bargain with Lilah, but he seemed to have a hard time getting under her skin. (Although he could have just been trying to trick her into letting down her guard.) Lilah, instead of getting all defensive and falling apart like the other AI team members, didn't allow Angelus' tactics to make her deviate from her mission. I honestly don't know what Lilah was trying to accomplish, since she later denied (and I believe her) that she was going to free Angelus.

When the AI team spotted Lilah on the monitor and rushed down to the basement, Charles made a big deal out of holding Connor back from chasing after Lilah in case it was a trap. I don't think Charles was hoping Wesley would get killed. At first I thought Charles might have been holding Connor back because it was Wesley's job to go after his former girlfriend. (Just like how the team members stayed back when Angel would go chasing after his son Connor.) But then I realized that Charles probably didn't know anything about Wesley and Lilah's relationship at that point. Did he have any suspicions? I also realized that I had no idea when Charles, Cordelia, Connor and Lorne found out about Wesley and Lilah. Fred found out when Angelus broke the news, but we as an audience don't know if anyone else was following the conversation on the upstairs monitor at the time. I should try to review certain episodes one more time to try to figure out when everyone became aware of the relationship, but that would be too time-consuming for me now.

Wesley caught up to Lilah quite easily when she tried to escape in the tunnels. She tried to take Wes by surprise and hit him over the head, but Wesley managed to disarm her quite easily. Lilah swore at Wes, but I don't think she was horribly upset with the idea of being "captured" by him either. She probably attacked him more out of pride than anything else. From that point, Wesley the Watcher was firmly in control over Lilah, and I think she might have been relieved to have someone in her life who could look after her and make a lot of the decisions.

Wes wanted to look at her wound, but silly Lilah, didn't want him to touch her. I was also confused as to why Faith didn't want Wes to check out her injuries in "Release". Come on, ladies, don't you know a good thing when you see it? I'm speculating that in both instances, the moments could have become highly erotically charged, which neither lady (nor probably Wesley) would have been in the mood for at the time.

Continuing on, I loved that tragically sweet moment Lilah and Wes shared when they both admitted there were reasons why their relationship would have never worked. Lilah mentioned it first, probably to try to build up her own self worth. When Wesley echoed the sentiment, reasserting his dominance, Lilah looked very sad, and was probably holding back tears. Unfortunately, Wes also had to put in a dig about how it wasn't a wild stretch for Lilah to act "desperate" around Angelus, which also hurt Lilah.

It seemed that throughout their post-breakup encounters, while Wesley was always strenuously denying that Lilah ever "felt" anything, he seemed to enjoy being rather cruel to her. I'm theorizing that Wes needed constant visual confirmation of Lilah's love, and the only way he could really believe she felt anything for him at all was by seeing how genuinely hurt she became after he made his remarks. I also think there was an element of Wesley needing to build himself up (by putting Lilah down) since he probably felt an enormous amount of guilt over their whole relationship. You could also make the case that he felt an enormous amount of pain, and seemed to have the need to make sure she was suffering along with him.

Lilah, remarkably, put up with Wesley's treatment, probably because there really was no graceful way out of it. The only way she could put herself back in control of the situation, or at least gain equal footing, was if she truly didn't care for him. Lilah was no longer capable of putting on an act when it came to Wesley. In some odd way, Lilah might have put up with Wesley's behavior because negative attention from him was better than no attention at all. What a dysfunctional relationship it was turning out to be!

I loved how the tone of the conversation changed after Wesley spotted her copy of Rhinehardt's Compendium. Although Lilah was not a trained scholar in the occult like Wesley, her legal training obviously served her well by turning her into a quick study. She seemed to really enjoy learning about otherworldly matters and had a great deal of enthusiasm for these subjects, probably even more so than Fred. I saw numerous instances throughout the Angel series where Lilah knew a lot of information about the demon world off the top of her head. Lilah and Wesley became a great team for a tragically short period of time. No wonder she recruited him so heavily to work for Wolfram & Hart!

All of the time that Lilah was at the Hotel, I thought she and Wesley made a good-looking couple. In fact, it probably did a lot of good for the Angel Investigations crew to see them together. I can make a case that Cordelia probably figured out as soon as Lilah and Wesley walked in that they had a relationship at one time, when she hinted that it was probably more than luck that allowed Lilah to escape out of Wolfram & Hart alive.

If someone was astute, he or she probably could have worked out that Wes and Lilah had some sort of Shared History together. Wesley was certainly acting like he trusted Lilah! In fact, the way the two of them hung out and worked together reminded me of a couple who had been married for many years. I always love seeing mature relationships depicted on the screen where the two lovers aren't cloyingly sweet together.

At one point, Fred and Wes were looking over the texts together, and Wesley made another one of his overanxious, clumsy moves on Fred. It's one of those mysteries in life why certain people can bring out the best in a person (Lilah) while others can bring out the worst (Fred). It wasn't fair to Wesley that the girl of his dreams happened to be the perfect girl for him, and he just didn't have the skills to close the deal. Once again, a little bit of Wesley the Watcher would have gone a long way if he could have only brought himself to act sympathetic toward Fred's breakup with Charles.

Lilah, of course, walked in at the worst possible moment for Wes. She humorously couldn't overlook the fact that he was trying to make "progress" with Fred. Throughout the episode, Lilah got her not-so-subtle digs in at Fred, but I felt she was holding back a bit. If Lilah really wanted to hurt Fred she could have done a lot more damage. Lilah was probably just letting Fred know that there had to be at least a little bit of a price to pay for relinquishing her hold on Wesley.

It was cute how there was quite the love quadrangle going on at the time. Gunn loved Fred, Fred loved Wes, Wes loved Fred, Fred fell out of love with Wes when she found out he'd had a relationship with Lilah, Lilah still loved Wes, Wes still loved Lilah even though he was desperately trying to shove her aside in favor of Fred, etc. Cordelia and Connor looked like the most mature couple in the building!

I enjoyed how Wesley pointedly remarked to Lilah, "With all the excitement, I thought you would have escaped by now." Lilah tried to bluster her way through by talking about how she was in it for herself and was merely siding with the winning team, but I don't think anyone fell for that, least of all Wesley. For better or worse, Angel Investigations was probably the closest thing Lilah had to a real family in a long time. And remember how Lilah chided Wesley for just happening to pick the same team Fred was on? This time, Lilah just happened to pick the same team Wesley was on.

I was curious about Fred's reaction when she came out of the office at that point and saw Wesley and Lilah working together at the front desk. (It was certainly Wesley's unlucky day to have women repeatedly approaching him at the wrong time.) Wes and Lilah were having somewhat of a loaded conversation, but I don't think Fred heard much of what they were saying. I think what bothered Fred the most was that Wes and Lilah were such a good-looking couple who really seemed to belong together even though they had already broken up. There was nothing awkward or unnatural about their behavior, in contrast to how Fred and Wesley acted around each other. Wes and Lilah were acting like grown-ups instead of a couple of nervous kids.

The end of the episode was quite heartbreaking in several ways. When Wesley, Charles, Connor and Fred left the Hotel to go after Angelus, Wesley and Lilah did not have any sort of meaningful final moment together. In fact, they didn't even make eye contact as Wesley brushed past her to leave the Hotel. Also, if a person didn't know any better, he or she could have sworn that Lilah and Cordelia were starting to bond with each other just before Angelus made his dramatic reappearance.

And, damn it! Lilah almost got away. She bravely fired her full clip at Angelus, and was able to kick him up, over her, and down the stairs behind her when he caught up with her. That was one of the few times I ever saw anyone get the better of Angelus! Lilah relaxed when Cordelia arrived on the scene, and Demon Cordelia rewarded her by stabbing her in the neck. Once again, Lilah let her guard down and trusted someone, with tragic consequences.

Idle Thoughts. I always appreciated the nods to Christian symbolism throughout the Angel series, and "Calvary" had some great examples. Calvary, of course, was the name of the site just outside of Jerusalem where Jesus Christ was crucified. The wound that kept appearing on Lilah was the reference to how the Roman soldiers speared Jesus to either hasten his death or to make sure he was already dead. Perhaps Lilah was suffering for her sins, was abandoned (by Wesley and the rest of the team) during her extreme hour of need, and was finished off, not by a Roman soldier, but by Cordelia?

"Calvary" is also referred to as "Golgotha" or "skull", and a skull did play a rather prominent part in the "Calvary" episode. I'm sure there are a lot more profound things about Lilah's sometimes-there-and-sometimes-not wound that I'm just not figuring it out at this time. If I was getting scored on a 10-point scale on an essay question about Lilah's stigmata wound, I'd probably get about a 3.

Lilah also blessed us with a series of mild one-line zingers throughout her dialogue, which helped lighten the mood and add a touch of humor. I missed Lilah throughout the remainder of Angel! Wouldn't she have been a great addition to the team? I also can't help but think that she and the real Cordelia would have sensational together, learning to respect each other even while they continuously lobbed insults back and forth.

Wasn't Stephanie Romanov terrific when Lilah informed Cordelia that no one, not even the Forty-Damn-Second Cavalry, was going to save them?

The transition between Seasons 4 and 5 was probably the most jarring seasonal transition out of the entire Angel series. Besides the whole "Oh my God, I can't believe they're working for Wolfram & Hart" angle, I also have a feeling that they were transported into a completely different time dimension. The only way I can describe it is that it seems like the cast came back for a 10-year reunion special rather than just the following season.

I've only re-watched four episodes of Season 5 so far, but my feelings have definitely changed since the last time I saw them. My first time around, Season 5 was a relief compared to the never-ending dreariness of Season 4. My second time around, I enjoyed Season 4 a lot more, and I'm having a harder time really getting into Season 5. I honestly hope my attitude changes pretty soon because I still think Season 5 offers a lot of great fodder for future blog posts.

The beginning of Season 5 was poignant in that it marked a particularly good variation of Angel rescuing the damsel in distress from the evil vampire in the dark alleyway. You could tell Angel was really enjoying himself until the abrupt arrival of all of the Wolfram & Hart minions spoiled the mood. Seeing broody Angel lurking in dark alleys is one of the things that attracted me to the series, and I was surprised to see that those moments were actually quite few and far between. I guess there are only so many variations you can come up with on this theme.

I have a very difficult time watching Angel because most of the time I watch the episodes in my extremely bright family room during the middle of the day. (I work a lot at night.) Even with the shades drawn I feel like I'm missing a good 25% of what's showing up on the screen. What dark photography they used throughout the series! So, imagine my surprise during the outside "picnic" scene at night when I noticed Wesley holding a motorcycle helmet! I'd completely missed that the first time I saw the episode. (I can't seem to figure out which episode that scene appeared in.) I'm not sure if it's the same as his Season 1 motorcycle, but it was good to see that Wesley was back on his bike. (Note: If I had noticed the helmet on first viewing, I wouldn't have known the significance, since I'd never seen Season 1 of Angel before.)

Like the whole notion (as described by Skip the Demon) that free will had practically been eliminated from Angel Investigations, I've never cared for the implications of the Connor mindwipe on most of the group. I can try to ignore the implications as much as I can, but sooner or later I have to face up to certain things. I like my idea that Wesley became more grounded, integrated and mature in Season 5 because he successfully made it through his crisis of faith. I don't like the idea that he mellowed out because certain parts of his mind were wiped clean, particularly, how he kidnapped Connor.

I'm sure looking forward to Christian Kane's return as Lindsey McDonald!

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