Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Maintaining the Balance

This is probably the closest thing to fanfic you'll ever see from me.

When I started watching Angel, the thought suddenly occurred to me that the series could use some sort of neutralizing force, someone who was supposed to try to keep the world in balance between the forces of Good and Evil.

Coincidentally, this neutralizing force would be an ordinary woman from the Midwest named Miriam who suspiciously looks a lot like me. Miriam would be mystically drawn to the Hyperion Hotel, and she would be blessed with some sort of protection so that she could carry out her mission without fear of injury, and she and Wesley Wyndam-Pryce would fall madly in love with each other, and Wesley wouldn't mind a slightly older woman, etc.

Wolfram & Hart would constantly be complaining that the neutralizing force (Miriam) was spending too much time helping Angel Investigations. Miriam would explain that instead of being a true neutral party, she was supposed to work for one side exclusively if that's what it took to keep the two sides in balance.

In Season 5, when Lindsey explained that the Apocalypse had already arrived, he could say (after he accused Angel of being too stupid to figure things out on his own), "You know, Miriam's the only one who understands what's happening. The Senior Partners are winning, so the Great Neutralizer decided to throw in her lot with the Good Guys." Later, Miriam would admit to Angel that she had no idea an Apocalypse was raging, but she decided to side with Angel Investigations because she instinctively knew they needed her help.

One dilemma I have with my alter-ego Miriam is that I'm trying to figure out a good backstory to explain her martial arts expertise. She could be an ex-cop, but that's just too convenient. Miriam as a housewife who's devoted to her Tae-Bo classes would be way too silly. I'm still working on this part of my fantasy, but I'm leaning more toward the law enforcement angle. Miriam could earn her walking-around money by taking on occasional bodyguard jobs from women who are being haunted by demons.

While I was thinking about my story, I had this nagging idea in the back of my mind that this balancing entity territory had already been covered. (I'll remind readers again that I've never seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer.) After a few keyword searches on Google, I was pleased to find that there really was a balancing entity. He was a demon named Whistler who appeared in the last two episodes of BtVS' Season 2.

In 1996, Whistler came across the down-on-his-luck vampire-with-a-soul Angel in Manhattan. He brought Angel to California to observe Buffy, whereby Angel immediately agreed to help her out with her slayer duties. Later on, Buffy correctly guessed that Whistler was "just some immortal demon sent down to even the score between good and evil".

Several sources say that if actor Max Perlich had been available, he would have repeated his Whistler role in the early episodes of Angel in place of Glenn Quinn's Doyle. Although implied in BtVS, it would have finally come out in the open in Angel that Whistler was in fact working for The Powers That Be.

That shocked me. I always equated The Powers That Be with Good, since they were the direct counterparts of the Evil Senior Partners of Wolfram & Hart. As one of The Powers, Jasmine represented how unchecked Good could be just as destructive as Evil. I then had to re-examine my beliefs and found out rather quickly that The Powers That Be were perhaps more about creating order out of chaos, with goodness and a sense of decency being desirable side effects. This, more than anything, probably explained why The Powers That Be didn't spend as much time as Wolfram & Hart in directly muddling with human affairs. As I mentioned in my last post, Skip the Demon made it clear that every human already had a direct line to The Powers That Be.

My discovery also cleared up a mystery I had about Lorne. I could not figure out why Lorne, whom I considered to be a true neutral, so eagerly threw in his lot with Angel Investigations. If I'm correct, Lorne was not so much about neutrality but about balance in our world. In Season 2's "Belonging", Lorne explained to Angel,

"Talk about screwed up values. A world [his home dimension of Pylea] of only good and evil, black and white, no gray. No music, no art. Just champions roaming the countryside, fighting for justice. Bor-ing. You got a problem? Solve it with a sword. No one ever admits to having actual feelings and emotions, let alone talks about them. Can you imagine living in a place like that?"
Remarkably, this world that disgusted Lorne and seemed to please Angel so much was in fact run by the priests of Wolfram & Hart.

This Wikipedia entry comes right out and says that Lorne (along with Wes, Cordy and Doyle) "appeared much more concerned" with doing the will of the Powers than other members of the group.

The Wikipedia entry also makes a pretty good case that there's a strong implication that Lorne was himself somewhat of a conduit to the Powers That Be through his karaoke-reading talents. Although I don't think Lorne ever came out and admitted that he was a disciple of The Powers, he certainly encouraged and enabled other members of Angel Investigations to do their bidding.

Another remarkable dialogue exchange occurred in Season 4's "Peace Out", when Jasmine gave this startling admission to Angel:
"There are no absolutes. No right and wrong. Haven't you learned anything working for the Powers? There are only choices. I offered paradise. You chose this!"
I'll let you read the rest of the dialogue, but Jasmine went on to explain that she wanted to get rid of the fuzzy gray areas (that seemed to have been allowed to flourish under The Powers That Be) and offer a form of paradise on Earth. Angel summed up everything about our own existence when he replied,
"The price was too high, Jasmine. [Jasmine's domination of the world.] Our fate has to be our own, or we're nothing."
In other words, Angel gave another version of the story of the Garden of Eden. Humans chose to eat the fruit from The Tree of Knowledge so they could make moral choices between Good and Evil, rather than be lovingly cared for by God for the rest of eternity.

Idle Thoughts. The Pylea arc offered several poignant moments where Angel seemed to get somewhat carried away with the notion of living within a dimension where nothing existed between Good and Evil, and where champions roamed the land. I don't believe for one moment that Angel truly wanted to stay in a world like that. However, he had to be absolutely crushed by the weight he carried on his shoulders from always harboring doubts as to whether he was journeying down the correct path. I couldn't help but think of what he said in Season 1's "Blind Date", when he declared, (after the blind assassin was acquitted of a murder charge):
"It's still their world, Wesley. Structured for power -- not truth. It's their system, and it's one that works. It works because there is no guilt. There is no torment, no consequences. It's pure. I remember what that was like. Sometimes I miss that clarity."

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