Saturday, August 8, 2009

Tying Up a Few Loose Ends

The recent airing of Angel's "The Thin Dead Line" on TNT marked a bittersweet moment for me, since it was the only episode that I had not yet seen. It kind of feels like the day after Christmas for me, since I know there won't be any more surprises.

I was really disappointed when TNT opted not to show this particular episode during their previous rotation of the series, since I was cheated out of a good "Oh my poor sweet darling Wesley! " moment as he lay in his hospital bed. When I finally got a chance to see the episode, I really enjoyed it since it fit in quite well with all of the other outstanding Season 2 episodes. "The Thin Dead Line" didn't give me any "eureka" or "ah-ha" moments as far as giving me a lot of additional information, but it did help me solidify a few observations that I had already made.

The main question I'd had for quite a while was, how did Wesley Wyndam-Pryce and Charles Gunn become such close friends? I knew they were supposed to be tight with each other, particularly at the end of Season 2 and through the beginning of Season 3, but I never found their friendship all that convincing. I remember Charles talking about how Wesley "took a bullet for me", and I wanted to see just exactly how that moment transpired.

As it turns out, Wesley did not heroically step in the way of a bullet that was meant for Charles. Wes simply showed up at the scene, and the zombie cop fired at Wesley because he was perceived to be a threat. I did not see any one particular moment that stood out as the beginning to a deeper friendship. I simply believe that the feelings of friendship that Gunn already had for Wesley came to the forefront the moment Wesley got shot. In fact, after scanning through some of the episodes prior to "The Thin Dead Line", I realized that Gunn and Wes started bonding practically from the moment Angel fired them. If there was any defining moment to the beginning of their friendship, it was probably when the two of them defeated the twenty-foot tall, two-headed beast in "Blood Money".

Another question I had was, why did Gunn defer to Wesley as the team leader? (I think I already covered it fairly well here.) There were several references, particularly in his early appearances, to Gunn's reckless behavior. I thought the writers took great pains in "The Thin Dead Line" to point out that Gunn was again being reckless when they showed Wes and Cordy talking about Gunn's "dumb plan" to videotape the police while he and his friends were receiving vicious beatings. Wes didn't exactly display any brilliant planning himself when he showed up and simply told the zombie cop he was making a mistake (and got shot for the effort).

Like with Gunn and Wesley's friendship, I don't think "The Thin Dead Line" covered any new territory regarding Wesley's leadership role. Almost from the beginning, Wesley took on kind of the Executive Officer position. Although Wes, Cordy and Gunn were equal partners, Wesley led the team almost by default. He was the expert on demons, and his Watcher training had put him on the path to a leadership position. His youthful feelings of exaggerated self-importance were slowly evolving into real leadership abilities. Gunn deferring to Wesley seemed more natural taken in this context.

I really noticed a step up for Wesley when the team moved back to the Hyperion Hotel, where his role as boss become much more formalized. He even had his own desk and office! We didn't see how his promotion transpired. However, quite tellingly, Wesley told his father over the telephone that "I've been put in charge of our group." To me that implies that there was some sort of discussion and agreement that Wesley was the new leader. The "consent of the governed" was the key concept here. No one seemed to object to Wesley's elevated status, and indeed, he filled his new role quite admirably until he kidnapped Connor. At that point, the rest of Angel Investigations revoked their "consent to be governed" by Wesley and cast him out of the group.

Closing Thoughts. After concentrating on these Season 2 episodes, and putting in a lot of work over it, I now find Wes and Gunn's friendship to be a lot more convincing. I know I can be difficult to please at times. If I have to work too hard to figure something out, then I think the creators didn't do their jobs properly. If something really leaps out at me, (like the painfully obvious conversation about Gunn's lack of planning skills), I accuse the creators of being too simplistic. Hopefully I've learned something out of all of this and I'll start cutting the writers a little bit more slack.

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