Friday, July 10, 2009

Layers

There are many beautiful interpretations of the whole Wesley/Fred/Illyria relationship online. One of the better ones was written by Jennifer Hudson, "She's Unpredictable: Illyria and the Liberating Potential of Chaotic Postmodern Identity". In fact, there are so many good essays out there, I'm almost afraid to post my two cents worth. I read Ms. Hudson's piece and skimmed through a few others, but I ultimately decided to stop. I wanted to finish developing my own interpretations first, then compare my thoughts against what others have come up with at a later date.

"Underneath", from Angel's Season 5, has that famous dream sequence where Wesley and Fred are engaging in a highly cryptic conversation. When is a dream only a dream? At first I thought it was a rather hokey plot device to foreshadow coming events or to give information to Wesley that he would not have otherwise been able to obtain on his own. I'm now realizing (or justifying) that the dream, like Wesley's "conversation" with the deceased Lilah in "Salvage", was a manifiestation of how he was busily sorting out the many questions (which may have possibly existed on just a subconscious level) that were swirling around inside his head.

(Also similar to "Salvage", Wesley's girl (Fred) made physical contact with Wesley, but Wesley did not initiate any physical contact with her.)

When Fred asked Wesley to tell her a joke, he responded,
WESLEY: 2 men walk into a bar. The first man orders a scotch and soda. The second man remembers something he'd forgotten, and it doubles him over with pain. He falls to the floor shaking.... and then through the floor and into the Earth. He looks back up at the first man, but he doesn't call out to him. They're not that close."
Was this a foreshadowing of the scene in "Origins" where Wesley broke the spell of the Orlon Window, thereby restoring his memories that had been altered by the Connor-inspired mind wipe? Was Wesley sensing that things were not quite the way they should be, but couldn't put his finger on what exactly wasn't right? Was the "first man" Angel? And the "second man" Wesley, who remembers a horrific past after the memory spell is broken, then falls into the depths of despair? Does Wesley not call out to Angel because they are metaphorically too far apart to be able to communicate with each other?

The next piece of dialogue has me stumped, because both Fred and Wesley agree that he "always knows where" he is. Wesley, being perpetually angsty, never knew where he was, and was always searching for the answers. "Well-grounded", "sensible", and "knows his purpose in life" are not adjectives and phrases that easily come to mind when talking about Wesley Wyndam-Pryce.

Fred then delivered the most famous lines of the dialogue, "This is only the first layer. Don't you wanna see how deep I go?" I believe Wesley is truly hoping and believing that somehow, someway, Fred still existed inside her "shell". Perhaps she would somehow put herself together again and take back control of her body from Illyria?

I almost can't repeat too many times how disturbing I find this whole concept, since I think Illyria is a fascinating character in her own right. Having her deal with becoming human is enough of a story line right there. I also feel tremendous guilt because Fred was never a favorite character of mine, and I have to be honest about how I wish she would just sort of disappear for good and let Illyria take center stage.

I speculated in my previous post that, towards the end of "Shells", Wesley seemed to be accepting the challenge of being Illyria's guide and mentor. In "Underneath", it appears he didn't seem to be embracing the idea too enthusiastically. Perhaps he was keeping Illyria safe just until Fred was able to make her comeback? Wesley was drinking heavily, which Illyria disapproved of. As what happens to anyone who's drinking and not sleeping well, Wes was short-tempered with Illyria, even being somewhat cruel in his comments, as he called her a "twit" and, apparently even called her a "smurf".

While they were having one of their numerous conversations about how disappointing our world must have been to her, with Wesley admitting he felt the same disappointments, he seemed to really latch on to her suggestion as she wondered, why didn't Wesley just leave this world? Wes wasn't seriously thinking of following her suggestion, but he thought, why didn't she just leave?

Wesley pressed his case a little too enthusiastically, as Illyria snapped, started choking him, then threw him across the room. Immediately, her anger with Wes seemed to dissipate somewhat, only to be replaced by a steadily increasing sense of panic as she desperately talked of her frustrations with how the walls seemed to be closing in around her. In an odd way, Wes seemed to enjoy her despair, either because he hoped she would eventually give up and leave our world, or because her misery gave him an opportunity to save the day for her and get the upper hand. Regardless, Wes seemed like he genuinely felt sorry for Illyria, and his nurturing instinct from his Wesley the Watcher mode kicked in as he led her to the rooftop.

The two of them continued on with their conversation about the miseries and limitations of human existence. Illyria, who had enjoyed limitless freedom in her previous lives, felt trapped being stuck in her single dimension. When Wesley asked her if she really couldn't leave, Illyria admitted that she didn't know the answer. Things could be worse elsewhere! Could it also be true that Illyria was falling for Wes and didn't want to leave him? Or that Fred was keeping her bound to our world?

Again, Wesley made a cruel remark, when he told her not to "flatter" herself when she stated that she "reeked" of humanity. However, I'm sure Wes said that just as a simple reaction that a person would typically have when his kind is being insulted. Besides, Illyria wouldn't survive too well in our world if she kept up with her poor attitude toward humans. Regardless, Illyria acknowledged the insult, then seemed to quickly forget it. It was interesting that, in a another foreshadowing of things to come, Wesley again made an oblique reference to memories when he compared the walls closing in on us as truths that we can't bear.

Idle Thoughts. Not too long ago I blogged that I wasn't nearly as enthusiastic with Angel's Season 5 this time around as I was the first time I saw the episodes. I've completely changed my mind. Starting with approximately "Lineage", the creators seemed to turn things up a notch, with the episodes only getting better as the season progressed. "Smile Time" seemed to offer another turning point, where the series took an almost exponential leap in quality. I'm not sure what would have been better for fans as the series came to an end: Angel bowing out at its peak (which really did happen, in my opinion), or the series slowly deteriorating to the point where we wouldn't have even noticed it was off the air.

I like Eve a lot more now that she's been knocked down a peg or two.

There are so many great things happening in these Series 5 episodes that are now appearing on TNT, it almost kills me that I simply just cannot focus on everything at once. In a nutshell, just about everything I love about the series is being compressed into just a few remaining episodes. We have the Wes/Illyria relationship, Spike's playfulness with Illyria, the slow breakdown of the Angel Investigations unit, fantastic performances by Christian Kane as Lindsey, the ever-increasing march toward the final countdown against the Senior Partners, Lindsey's insights as to what the Senior Partners were up to, the reappearance of Connor, the restoration of everyone's memories after Wesley broke the spell of the Orlon Window, Wesley's slow descent into his own personal miseries, etc.

Now that Wesley is going through dark times again and is drinking heavily, doesn't Alexis Denisof look fantastic again in Season 5? I'm happy to see the return of the stubble and the bad-ass Wesley wardrobe consisting of unbuttoned shirts worn over T-shirts. I've said in the past that the worse off Wesley became in his personal life, the better-looking he became, probably to keep the female viewers hooked.

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