Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Strange Comfort Zone

"Supersymmetry", from Angel's Season 4, has always fascinated me for offering a direct contrast between Wesley Wyndam-Pryce's relationship with Lilah Morgan and his relationship with Fred Burkle. I wrote about this episode extensively back in June.

While watching "Supersymmetry" again on TNT this morning, the phrase that kept popping into my head was "comfort zone". For all of the betrayals, angst and heartaches that defined his relationship with Lilah, Wesley seemed to be operating within a surprisingly secure comfort zone. Even when he was putting on an act with Lilah (e.g., pretending not to care about Angel), he wasn't putting on an act, if that makes any sense at all. He was being 100% genuine Wesley at all times, comfortable with his own skin, and not suffering through awkward moments or worrying about how to act or behave. Wes didn't try or even want to do anything to impress Lilah. The pressure was completely off his shoulders. In essence, he could relax and be himself around Lilah. Even though he tried to hide behind a wall and keep some of his emotions in check, Wesley still unwittingly allowed his best qualities to seep through. Lilah appreciated these qualities and started falling in love with him.

Much as people would like to think that Wes and Lilah's relationship was purely physical, what the two of them revealed about themselves during their unspoken literal moments of intimacy cannot be discounted. No matter how hard they tried to deny what was happening, Wes and Lilah opened up to each other (so to speak) in bed and grew much closer together on an emotional level.

With Fred, Wesley was tense and awkward because he loved her so intensely for being the ideal embodiment of womanhood. I've had a theory for quite a while that Fred brought out the "real" Wesley as he understood himself, as being the loving, kind, gentle, protective man who emerged during his short-lived relationship with her in Season 5's "Smile Time" and "A Hole in the World".

The emotions Fred brought out in him, and the implications for the possibility of blissfully perfect happiness with her, was all too powerful for Wesley to be able to handle most of the time. The cost of failure was high, which made Wesley nervously bungle just about every chance he had to start a relationship with Fred. It's amazing how our minds can fail us at crucial times. When Fred came to Wesley for help in killing Professor Seidel, all Wes could think of was how he could be the hero for Fred while Charles would be labelled the "failure". The "real" Wes would have never made the decision to encourage Fred to kill a fellow human for revenge. Ironically, the girl Wesley was madly in love with never really had the opportunity to know the "real" Wes until it was almost too late.

It's that dichotomy in Wesley (strong, confident and mature with Lilah, and warm and gentle with Fred, while loving both in his own way) that makes him such a fascinating character for me. A person can act like two different individuals at times, with both personalities having equal validity. A simple example I can give is how someone like me can enjoy watching a hockey game one night and a ballet performance the next. One-note characters always seem undeveloped to me, and really, quite boring. Indeed, one-note people in real life always leave me thinking, "No one can possibly be that well-adjusted. What is this person trying to hide?"

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