Tuesday, July 7, 2009

It's Not Always About Right and Wrong

What really attracted me to Angel Season 5 is the whole concept of, what's the best way to fight Evil? Do you limit yourself to focusing on helping individuals in their hours of need as communicated by the Powers That Be? Or do you concentrate on attacking the root of the problem, the forces at the very top who are in charge? Do you fight from the outside, with hit-and-run guerilla tactics? Or do you infiltrate and fight from within?

Ideally the answer would be "all of the above", but no organization on earth has all of the resources necessary to carry out such a concerted attack. When I look at the dilemmas that Angel and his crew wrestle with in Season 5, I can't help but think that prosecutors wrestle with the same decisions every day. In my own backyard, political corruption runs rampant within the City of Detroit. Is it a coincidence that violent street crime runs just as rampant? Why are things so bad that there are numerous reports that not all homicides are even being reported?

(For the record, Detroit's new police chief, former Wayne County Sheriff Warren Evans, just held a press conference yesterday promising new changes in reporting and accountability for the police department.)

Whenever formal corruption charges are filed against Detroit public officials, one of the first criticisms hurled at the prosecutor's office is, why spend all of that money going after popular politicians when that same money could be used to investigate cases of violent crime? If you're too fearful to walk the streets, and don't even feel safe in your own home, and if you've ever been a violent crime victim and the police failed to investigate your complaint, do you particularly care if a city council member admitted to accepting a few thousand dollars in bribes?

As Angel knew, top officials hide behind these arguments all of the time while they cause almost inestimable amounts of damage. As Wesley pointed out before, and what seemed to be his own personal philosophy, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. When you're allocating limited resources, you have to determine whether you'll cause more overall harm than good. If Angel made the decision to go against a particularly powerful force of Evil, he would have to decide, would even more innocents suffer as a result?

Despite Cordelia's crystal clear view of the world in "You're Welcome", these are not easy issues to tackle. If you're a champion, Evil will continue regardless as to whether you go after the little guy (like Spike when he was working on Lindsey's "visions") or whether you go after the bigger guy (like Angel, as CEO at Wolfram & Hart). It's easy to take Cordelia's way, where you directly attack Evil at every step of the way, caution be damned. To a certain extent we need to conduct ourselves so that we can live with the consequences of our actions. Unfortunately, that can be an extremely selfish way to live if untold numbers of innocents suffer just so we can live with our individual consciences. As Kate the police officer pointed out in Season 1, whenever Angel went on one of his "doing the right thing" rampages, Kate was left to deal with the messes and the untold suffering left in his wake.

Do champions have a right to destroy the lives of innocent people even if it's for the greater good? After going through a great deal of soul-searching and inner turmoil, just about every member of the Angel Investigations team made deals with the devil in order to save the lives of innocents. Cordelia couldn't seem to understand that sometimes you have to not only pick your battles, you also have to pick your terms. She had a way of making Angel feel lazy and naive when he tried to explain how he operated at Wolfram & Hart. And, deep down, Angel himself wasn't even sure he was doing the right thing. That is the true mark of a champion, always questioning his motivations, always feeling the doubt, and seldom going to bed with the satisfaction of knowing that he did the right thing. I thought David Boreanaz was at his best when he had to portray Angel dealing with these decisions, which only proved that he was definitely the best man for the series.

The war never ended for Angel and his team. Even cut-and-dry decisions like sending Lindsey to the Wolfram & Hart hell dimension backfired when it became apparent that they had to spring him loose. Angel had the philosophy that you have to act immediately in order to get the job done, then deal with the consequences later. An action may seem to have been unwise if it caused further complications down the road. However, the forces of Evil will exploit people's indecisiveness to the fullest. While the forces of Good spend way too much time trying to decide the best course of action, the bad guys continue on unchecked.

In life, many times you don't have the luxury of choosing between "right"and "wrong". Most of the time your only alternatives are a bunch of "wrong" choices. You have to make the lonely decision of deciding which "wrong" choice you can deal with and live with as a result of your actions.

No comments: