Monday, November 30, 2009

Gone, But I'm Not Forgetting

There's not much going on here at I Heart Wesley W-P, though I am slaving away at my other site, The Wolfram & Hart Hall of Fame. I would like to recommend a blogger who's just finished reviewing all of the Season 4 episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all of the Season 1 episodes of Angel. You can check out his excellent posts at The Daily Drew.

Cheers!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Blogging Problems


I'm having so many problems with Blogger lately I can't even take the time to describe everything that's going wrong. I tried to finish up a lengthy post at my Wolfram & Hart Hall of Fame site today, but I might just have to re-type the whole thing from scratch. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this happy update on the story of Howard the Combine Kitty, the little black kitten who lost his two front paws in a farm combine machine accident last July.

I'm going to leave Blogger alone for a few days and see if all of the problems magically disappear. I obviously won't be posting anything new for a while yet.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Working on Other Projects

Posting will be light here for a while as I take another stab at coming up with a series of blog posts at my other site, The Wolfram & Hart Hall of Fame, regarding a recent Kansas State Supreme Court case involving an organization called Mortgage Electronic Registry Systems, Inc. (MERS). I tried to come up with a post last September, but the case wasn't quite as cut and dried as the early pundits were breathlessly proclaiming.

In the meantime, feel free to look at some of the 140+ posts I've already come up with for this blog. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me at mirjonray (at) live dot com (you know how to de-obfuscate my email address) or use one of my comment boxes.

Best wishes to everyone out there.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Not Your Usual Fare at Marginal Revolution, and, Praise for Alexis Denisof's Podcast


Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution (which is basically an economics blog) writes on a wide range of subject matters. However, I still raised my eyebrows a bit when I discovered he had done a blog post, "Why Do Vampires Attract So Many Readers and Viewers?". His post in turn is based on an article that appeared at the Washington Post.

Although I didn't see anything horribly original in either the main post or the comments, it still made for an interesting read, particularly to see the wide range of reactions to the vampire genre. Joss Whedon, David Boreanaz and James Marsters even showed up in one of the comments!

I had to laugh at Don's comment,
Vampires are a total absurdity, annoyance, and waste of time. Proof that our cultures have too much prosperity that people can waste their time and thoughts with such drivel.
Anyone who admits to harboring a trivial thought risks getting shot down as being a threat to all civilized society as we know it.

I can't come up with a definitive answer for the attraction, but I have noticed that, for whatever reason, production values seem to be a lot higher than usual in a lot of vampire TV shows and films. I also think the subject lends itself quite easily to whatever metaphor du jour is being explored, which also allows the creators to push the envelope a lot further without the risk of being too obvious or absurd with their messages.

Finally, Whedonesque finally posted a link to Alexis Denisof's recent interview for Somewhere in Vegas on BlogTalkRadio. I blogged about it previously here. Regular Whedonesque poster Simon gave a short but flattering review of the show, calling it "One of the best interviews that he's ever done"!

Somewhere in Vegas host MarQ Piocos (sorry for all of my previous misspellings of his name) did a nice job posting highlights of the interview here. Here's a link to the feed at Podcast.com.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Five Seasons of Angel

Here's my ranking of Seasons 1-5 of Angel, in reverse order of favorites. (Note: you can find links to episode recaps here.)

Fifth Place - Season 4. Although I often feel bad when I put something in last place, in this instance, it is entirely appropriate for me to rank Season 4 as my least favorite season. As I stated in a previous post,
Wow, Season 4 was a challenge for me! I like to pride myself on watching shows and movies that dwell on the dark side and offer no easy choices, but I found out that even I have my limits. Between Wesley being estranged from the group for a while, Cordelia being lifted to a higher plane, Connor acting like an out-of-control monster brat, Angel existing in a watery grave, Skip the Demon telling the Angel crew that just about every choice they made was actually a preordained chess move (I choose not to believe him), Cordelia and Connor getting all "couply", Cordelia being first channeled by and then giving birth to whatever entity was controlling The Beast, my favorite character being forced to chop the head off of his lifeless "loved one", The Beast destroying everything in sight with the Angel Gang being completely helpless to stop it, Angel turning into Angelus for way too long, and the whole Jasmine deal.......I didn't think the season would ever end.
Season 4 offered a lot of instances where I thought things would finally start getting better, only to have my hopes cruelly dashed time and time again. Just think of the number of times Connor acted like he was about to start functioning like a normal human being, only to resume his teenage reign of terror. Instead, Season 4 turned out to be a collection of horrible events happening one after another, to the point where I was beginning to seriously wonder how the members of Angel Investigations could possibly continue to function. About the only way I can justify the dreariness of Season 4 was that it gave me the only reason I could come up with for why it was a good idea for Angel and his crew to take over the LA offices of Wolfram & Hart. In Season 5 they had a chance to rest, regroup, and start afresh.

There were still a number of bright spots in Season 4, including Andy Hallett's poignant performance in "Spin the Bottle", the Las Vegas interlude in "The House Always Wins", Wes and Faith's sensational pairing in their hunt for Angelus, and, the story arc that saved the series for me, Wesley and Lilah's love affair.

I'm not sure if I can include the Jasmine episodes as a bona fide "bright spot", but I have to admit, her arc offered a welcome respite from The Beast/Angelus fiasco.

Fourth Place - Season 1. In this case, I am sorry that I have to rank Season 1 in second to last place, because it implies that perhaps I didn't enjoy the episodes. On the contrary, I adored Season 1. Highlights for me include: Doyle's brief interlude at the beginning of the series; the Buffy crossovers, including appearances by Spike, Oz, Faith and Buffy herself; Wesley's rapid integration into the group and his continuous character development; Kate Lockley before her "I can't handle the supernatural" shtick became too intense; the cozy (but cramped) office and "bat cave" sets; the lovely, warm, glowy family atmosphere created by Angel, Cordelia and Wesley; the early stages of my beloved Wes/Cordy relationship; and entertaining early appearances by Lindsey McDonald, Lilah Morgan and Holland Manners.

Much has been written about how Season 1 started as a series of stand-alone episodes dominated by a dark, broody, character (Angel). The producers then decided to lighten up the character a bit and introduce story arc elements into the series. Arguably, the early episodes may have been a bit rough around the edges, but I enjoyed the element of tension where the producers were obviously experimenting to try to figure out what to keep and what to discard. I'm curious if I would have held Season 1 in such high regard if I had started watching the series from the very beginning, rather than starting from the end of Season 2 and continuing up through Season 5, before looping back to Season 1.

For me, Angel really took off to the next level in the 17th episode, "Eternity", when Tamara Gorski appeared as Rebecca Lowell, a TV actress who attempted to halt the effects of aging by having Angel turn her into a vampire. From that point on, I thought the core group of Angel, Cordelia and Wesley really started to gel. Although "Eternity" was still ostensibly a "victim of the week" episode, as writer Tim Minear put it according to this Wikipedia entry,
".....it's really about our core people, and by the end of the episode the client's gone. There's not even a wrap up scene at the end with the actress. It's all about Angel being chained to the bed and Cordelia not untying him."
In essence, "Eternity" marked a turning point in the series where the main cast was no longer simply reacting and commenting on the "victim of the week", but actually becoming the main focus of the series.

By the time "War Zone", "Blind Date" and "To Shanshu in LA" came about, I was amazed at how far the series and characters had progressed. It got to the point where it became hard to believe that these three episodes were actually still a part of Season 1.

Third Place - Season 3. It pains me to put Season 3 in third place, simply because the first half of the season provided me with my favorite run of consecutive episodes, from "Heartthrob" to "Couplet". I really should include "Sleep Tight" and "Loyalty" since they featured brilliant performances from Alexis Denisof. However, the juxtaposition between the light-heartedness of warm and glowy "Couplet" and the impending doom in "Sleep Tight" was just too much for me to handle. From that point on, Season 3 became an endless series of "let's see who can kick Wesley the hardest" contests between various cast members.

Although Alexis Denisof had plenty of moments to shine as Wesley in the first half of the season, particularly in "Billy", for the most part it seemed like he was just kind of "there". I remember being puzzled when I first started watching Season 3. I thought Wesley was used to great advantage in the Pylea arc (which were the first episodes I ever saw), yet the producers had kind of dropped the ball on his character. After seeing the rest of the episodes in that part of Season 3, I now understand that he was being held somewhat in reserve since he would play such a crucial role later on. Whereas before I considered Wesley to have been relegated to the background, I now view him in these episodes as being a quiet, steadying influence on the rest of the group as he settled quite nicely into his leadership position.

Charisma Carpenter was the real star of the first part of Season 3, as she appeared in what I considered to be roughly the "Cordelia arc" that started with the Pylea episodes in Season 2. She was making the transition from a ditzy, bitchy (though wildly funny) young girl into a warmer, more confident, mature young woman, while still allowing her inner-bitch-goddess personality to come out at appropriate times. Why the writers decided to mess with her natural personality development and turn her into, first Saint Cordelia, then killer Jasmine, I'll never know.

Let's not forget Julie Benz and her memorable turn as Darla, being first the blood-thirsty mama vampire, then gradually turning into a tragically loving mother-to-be who literally sacrificed herself for her baby.

Second Place - Season 5. Season 5 was almost a reverse image of Season 3 for me. I didn't really care for the first part of the season, then, almost as if someone switched on a light, the episodes leaped exponentially in quality as the series started concentrating on Angel's powerful series-ending crisis of faith story arc.

The first time I saw Season 5, I actually liked the beginning stand-alone episodes simply because they were welcome respites from the doom-and-gloom story arcs of Season 4. (I also understand the network had insisted on the return of stand-alone episodes.) Unfortunately, the second time I saw Season 5, I was actually quite bored with the first four episodes, ("Conviction" through "Hellbound"), with my enjoyment of the next seven episodes being spotty at best. Of the first 11 episodes, my favorites were "Life of the Party" (though I enjoyed it less on the second viewing), "The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco" (which I consider to be a nice, old-fashioned, family-oriented throwback), "Lineage" (with yet one more amazing Alexis Denisof performance), and particularly, "Harm's Way", which I consider to be the best portrayal of underappreciated administrative assistants ever filmed.

It's only fitting that Charisma Carpenter's farewell appearance in "You're Welcome", (episode 12 of the season, and Episode 100 of Angel) jump-started not only Angel himself, but the entire series. From then on, the show was at its highest quality during its entire run (with the exception of what I considered to be the only unwatchable episode of the entire series, "The Girl in Question"). This made it all the more cruel when WB announced Angel's impending cancellation. At least the series ended on a high note.

First Place - Season 2. I had just a little bit of difficulty naming this my favorite season since there are very few episodes or story arcs that stand out as being my top, top favorites. Regardless, Season 2 was absolutely top-notch from beginning to end, from Lorne making his karaoke-demon debut to my sentimental favorite episodes, the Pylea arc. Although Darla always had the potential to ruin the series for me, with her nasty habit of turning up every time good things started to happen, I always found her performances and the episodes she appeared in to be almost breathtaking. It was as though everyone, from the writers, actors, and the rest of the production crew, stepped it up a notch whenever Julie Benz appeared on the set.

Angel's crisis of faith, as he tried to do battle with the Senior Partners and Wolfram & Hart, also made for compelling viewing.

I have to admit that I thought the first four episodes of the season were a little weak, but that's just a minor quibble in comparison to the rest of the season. Another mild complaint is how I thought Wesley regressed a little bit at the beginning of Season 2, but I'm pretty sure that was done just to more fully contrast the "old" Wesley with the newer improved Wesley that emerged later on.

How can I summarize the high points without doing recaps of nearly every remaining episode? Top-notch standouts in my mind include: "Guise Will Be Guise", where Wesley was forced to impersonate Angel, gained new confidence in his fighting abilities and won over the lovely Virginia; "Darla", with all of the outstanding flashback sequences; "Reunion" and "Redefinition", where Darla and Drusilla went on their rampage, and Angel left a wine-cellar room full of Wolfram & Hart lawyers to their bloody fate; "Blood Money", for just the sheer enjoyment of watching Angel and an old demon pull one over on Wolfram & Hart; "Happy Anniversary", for being an outstanding Angel-and-Lorne-as-sidekicks episode; "Reprise" and "Epiphany", where Angel gained a new sense of purpose in life after reaching rock-bottom during his crisis of faith; "Disharmony", for Mercedes McNab's unique take on the "dumb blond" persona; "Dead End", for being a brilliant showcase and send-off for Christian Kane's Lindsey McDonald; and the final four "Pylea arc" episodes, for setting up Angel Investigations into a new era with the addition of Fred, and for allowing Wesley to gain increased confidence in his leadership and planning skills.

I have to also give praise to the delicious interplay between deadly rivals Lindsey and Lilah, the contrasting cozy little relationship/friendship between Wes and Cordy, the not-so-easy integration of Charles Gunn into the group, and the valuable insertion of Lorne into the cast as the incisive comic relief.

About the only low points I can think of were Detective Kate Lockley's increasingly shrill screeches against supernatural forces; Wes, Cordelia and Gunn's naive attitudes about how Angel was handling his crisis of faith; and the trio's insistence that Angel perform absurd penance after he returned to the group. Even so, I recognize that Wes, Cordelia's and Gunn's attitudes were crucial to the story line, which allowed their later action in the series to stand out in more of a stark contrast.

Closing Thoughts. An easier way to try to pick a favorite season would be to ask myself this question. If I could only purchase one season of Angel on DVD, which season would it be? You can quickly see my dilemma, since my answer would clearly be "Season 4", simply for the Wesley/Lilah episodes, even though it's clearly my least-favorite season. Joss Whedon et al had a particular skill of mixing in the good with bad, by putting in outstanding episodes into lackluster seasons, (like, including "Spin the Bottle" in Season 4), and placing favorite scenes into lackluster episodes (like Wesley's "It's not always about holding hands") into Season 4's "Players".

The creators also had a particular knack for carrying over certain story arc elements from one season to the next, making it nearly impossible to buy just one season's worth of DVD's. For example, I said above I'd buy Season 4 just for the Wesley and Lilah scenes. However, if I was really serious about the story arc I'd have to buy Season 3 as well.

I've often thought that a logical ending to the series could have occurred at the end of Season 2's "Epiphany", when Angel and Kate Lockley revealed their own personal miracle stories to each other. Lindsey's last appearance in Season 2 ("Dead End") also would have provided a decent ending for the series. As it turns out, with the exception of the Pylea arc, Season 2 was the last season that I saw when I first watched the complete Angel series on TNT. I wonder how much of my affection for Season 2 and the sense of finality I get stems from the fact that, for me, it really was the last of the series?

Dollhouse Finally Cancelled

What can I say about Dollhouse's cancellation? I had not-so-high hopes that the series would continue on, yet I'm not surprised that it's turning into a mid-season casualty. Abysmal ratings speak louder than anything.

Apparently, all 13 episodes will air, with the last episode supposedly airing on January 22, 2010.

Although I have enjoyed watching most of Season 2, I must admit that the only way I would be heartbroken by the cancellation is if Alexis Denisof had become a regular cast member. As it is, his two remaining episodes should be airing back-to-back on December 4, 2009, so I at least have that to look forward to.

I looked forward to watching Dollhouse every week, but I never fell in love with it. I hate to pile on the criticism, but my biggest disappointment was that it took too long for the show to get anywhere. All of the creative floundering I'm seeing and the sense of how the series is trying to find its voice should have taken place in Season 1. (And how much of the problems were caused by network interference, we'll never know.) At best, Dollhouse provided tantalizing glimpses into its future potential. It's just too bad that the series never fully delivered. Perhaps if Dollhouse had a firm commitment for at least one full season, things would have been a lot different.

Best wishes to Eliza Dushku, Joss Whedon, and all of the other actors and creative people associated with the show. I look forward to seeing everyone's future projects.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Phantom Dennis

I always considered Cordelia Chase to be somewhat of a commitment-phobe. In this regard, her relationship with roommate Phantom Dennis during a large part of her adult life was pretty close to ideal.

I did a post several months ago called "My Top 11 Biggest Goofs" about some of the biggest mistakes I made when I first started watching Angel. One item I should have included was a notion I concocted that Phantom Dennis was a former boyfriend of Cordelia's who hung around with her at her lovely Silver Lake apartment. As creepy as that sounds to me now, I took that in stride initially since I knew that it was virtually impossible for the members of Angel Investigations to have normal social lives.

As it turns out, Phantom Dennis Pearson was the ghost of a young man who died in Cordelia's apartment in the 1940's when his mother tied him up and bricked him into a wall. Mrs. Pearson was hell-bent on stopping his marriage to a woman she considered to be a social inferior. In a poetic twist of fate, his mother died of a heart-attack almost immediately after she finished her masonry work. Their story is told in Season 1's. "Rm w/a Vu".

Phantom Dennis Pearson (aka actor B.J. Porter) went on to become enshrined in the opening credits of every single Angel episode.

Cordelia struck me as the type of girl who didn't like to be alone. She needed to be pampered and cherished, and Phantom Dennis seemed to go out of his way to care for her. We know he drew her baths and was quite handy with the loofah. One of the most touching scenes in the entire series for me occurred in Season 1's "Expecting", when Dennis pulled up the bedsheets and handed her the box of tissues after Angel and Wesley found a badly frightened (and pregnant) Cordelia huddled up in bed.

One regret I have about how the writers treated Dennis (besides the fact they dropped him too abruptly in Season 4) was how they never allowed him to successfully warn anyone of immediate danger. In Season 1, he did his best to spoil Cordelia's evening with the photographer before the guy impregnated her with demon spawn. Later on in Season 1, Phantom Dennis tried to prevent Wesley and Cordelia from being ambushed by psychotic Faith. Finally, in Season 2, Dennis tried to warn Cordelia about the dangerous Harmony the Vampire. He was able to wake up Cordelia when Harmony crept into her bedroom, but Cordelia didn't figure out until it was almost too late that Harmony was an evil vampire.

With regards to the photographer, I don't know if we were sufficiently clued in as to whether Dennis was jealous of her being with other men (as Cordelia claimed), or if he had a knack for sensing an evil presence. I tend to believe the latter since those were the only situations that were presented to the viewers. However, regardless of whether the potential danger came from males or females, if Dennis provided too many false alarms, Cordelia would obviously have stopped paying attention to him after awhile.

Except for an instance when he flung a book toward Wesley a little too enthusiastically, Dennis was more than comfortable with the good guys associated with the Angel Investigations crew. He helped provide companionship for a very miserable Angel at Cordelia's Season 1 party. Significantly, we're not aware that Dennis had any issues when the Groosalugg moved in with Cordy for a short time. Dennis might have possibly been quite happy to see that Cordelia was being cared for.

I would have liked at least one scene in the series where Cordelia et al were successfully warned of danger by the very useful Phantom Dennis. He deserved to be the hero in at least one episode.

One of the first times I "saw" Phantom Dennis was in this scene in Season 3's "Birthday" when he greeted Gunn and Fred at Cordelia's apartment (thinking it was Cordelia returning home) "wearing" a party hat and blowing a noisemaker. I actually had a lot of high hopes for the potential of his character at that point.

The writers had Gunn and Fred treat Phantom Dennis very much like a human when they broke the news to him that Cordelia would not be returning to her apartment to celebrate her Season 3 birthday with him. Dennis reciprocated their kindness by showing them where Cordelia was hiding her powerful prescription drugs.

I thought it would have been nice if the AI crew could have celebrated Cordelia's birthday and perhaps other occasions at her apartment so Dennis could have been included in the festivities. Which leads me to some issues that I should explore on a future rainy day. Was Dennis always "there", or did he tend to just pop in and out? Should ghosts be encouraged to interact with humans? And, should ghosts always be treated with just as much respect as humans?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Angel Recommendations

Angel DVD Sets. I'm not sure if this is a national promotion or not, but I noticed today that my local Target store (in the Detroit area) was selling Angel Seasons 1&2 and Seasons 3&4 DVD sets for $14.99 (or $14.88, I forget) each. This was about $5.00 off the regular price for each set, for a total savings of $10.00. I figure if you go ahead and spend $30.00 for the Seasons 1-4 sets, and spend another $30.00 at Amazon for Season 5, you're saving a pretty good bundle off the regular price of $115.00 at Amazon for the Seasons 1-5 Collectors Set.

Amazon will periodically lower the price on the Collectors Set during their 1-day only sales. I recently picked up the set for $52.99, but I've seen it cheaper than that before. I can't give you a frequency on how often the Collectors Set goes on sale, but I've noticed it happening twice over the last 3-4 months or so. The people at Whedonesque seem to be good with providing us with sales updates.

I can't vouch for the differences in special features between the various editions. The sets on sale at Target seem to have some decent bells and whistles, but I don't know how they compare with the Collectors Set. Maybe I was expecting too much, but I'm a little disappointed with the features in the Angel Collectors Set. I don't think the Collectors Set has that much more than what the individual sets offer, with the exception of a rather nice little "signed" letter from Joss Whedon. This is just a long way of saying that if you're looking to complete a partial collection of Angel DVD's, or you can't afford to buy the Collectors Set and don't want to wait until the next Amazon sale, don't feel that you're missing much by not owning the Collectors Set.

I encourage anyone to correct me if I'm wrong or if you have any extra information to provide.

Sequential Tart. Wolfen Moondaughter has posted Part II of her "Celebrating Angel's 10th Anniversary" over at Sequential Tart. In this particular post, Wolfie got her fellow "Tarts" to share their thoughts on Angel: The Series.

I was enjoying looking at the comments, agreeing with some and disagreeing with others, which is fine because I don't expect everyone to think just like me. Then I scrolled down to Maurissa Sammy's comments and just about died laughing! This woman likes Fred about as much as I do, though I try to hide my feelings somewhat just because I feel guilty for not liking such a sweet, adorable little creature.

It's hard to pick out just one statement to lift, but this will work as well as any:
As the seasons wore on, it became clear that Fred could do no wrong and every male who trotted through the screen had to remark on her smarts or "cuteness" or whatever, and it got to the point where I would fast-forward just so I wouldn't have to see it."
I tolerate Fred perhaps a little more than Maurissa, simply because you can't avoid Fred if you're a fan of the series. Her comments still made my day though.

I've gone ahead and put a link to Sequential Tart in my teeny-tiny blogroll. The ladies there produce a:
....publication dedicated to providing exclusive interviews, in-depth articles and news, while working towards raising the awareness of women's influence in the comics industry and other realms.
Their site seems ideal for a woman like me who is just starting to dip her toes into this genre.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Top 5 Favorite Wesley and Lilah Scenes


I always agonize over my Top 5 or Top 10 Favorites lists because I always feel bad about the items I need to exclude. This post proved to be no exception. I have to impose a considerable amount of self-control to keep from turning this into a Top 10 List of Favorite Wesley and Lilah moments, with about 5 honorable mentions.

What was it like the first time Angel fans saw Wes and Lilah in bed together in Season 3's "Tomorrow"? In retrospect, their pairing shouldn't have been too shocking. It would only be natural that Lilah would pay Wesley a visit after she found out he'd been banished from Angel Investigations. They were two intelligent, attractive people, roughly the same age, who weren't currently in committed relationships. More importantly, they both loved living on the edge, with the more kink involved the better. What would have kept them apart?

I've mentioned many times that I was happily surprised when I read the spoilers and found out that my darling Wesley would be hooking up with the deliciously evil Lilah. If they hadn't have become an item, I probably would have abandoned the series soon after Connor's kidnapping. I was tired of Wesley getting kicked around, and it was about time he got a little something for the effort.

The creators were wise to get Wesley and Lilah in bed together just a few minutes after Wesley threatened to strangle her in the pub. If the creators had dragged things out another week (by putting the scenes in an earlier episode), or waited until the Season 4 premiere, fans probably would have had time to figure things out, which would have ruined the surprise.

When compiling this list, I was surprised to find that I wasn't simply rating how Wesley's naked torso looked against the rumpled bedsheets. Trust Joss Whedon and his writers to ruin things by giving the Weslah scenes a lot of subtlety and depth, as opposed to simply giving us gratuitous sex scenes at random intervals. Wes and Lilah's story arc had a definite beginning, middle and ending, as their wary initial contacts turned from mutual manipulation to the two of them genuinely starting to care for each other. Their relationship finally ended when, taking Alexis Denisof's analogy to Icarus flying too close to the sun, Wesley was the first to come crashing back to earth when he realized they simply could not continue on as before.

Even a Wesley/Lilah scene that was written by Joss Whedon as a true time filler (the phone sex scene) marked a definite advancement, and in some ways, the high point, in their relationship. As fun and kinky as the phone sex was to listen to, there was a wistfully sweet subtext to the whole conversation. With the "scowl and burnt pot roast", Wes and Lilah seemed to be having fun pretending that there could at least be the possibility of having something resembling a normal relationship.

To paraphrase Lilah, "What are you waiting for? This list won't compile itself."

So here is, for better or worse, my Top 5 Wesley/Lilah moments.

5. Wes and Lilah's Initial Meeting in Season 3's "A New World". (My review here.) I can just imagine my husband's crestfallen face if I told him, "You want to see something really hot?", then showed him the scene where Lilah showed up for the first time at Wesley's apartment, bringing the gift of "Dante's Inferno."

As I wrote in a post last June, "Smoldering sensuality doesn't even begin to describe what I saw." Alexis Denisof never looked better as Wesley, with that sexy 3-day stubble on his chin and that perpetual "don't mess with me" look. At one point he informed Lilah "I think you should leave now". If he had picked her up off her feet, it might have been a crapshoot as to whether he tossed her out the door or onto his bed.

Lilah was quite the seductress in this scene, constantly making cutting remarks to Wesley while using her body language to convey some unmistakable "come hither" messages. I loved how Wes and Lilah seemed to be participating in an elaborately choreographed courtship ritual as they both circled warily around each other, looking for weaknesses in each other's defenses. Although their initial meeting set the stage for the rest of their encounters, this scene was still one of their best.

4. Lilah Dressed Like Fred in Season 4's "Apocalypse Nowish". (My review here.) I loved the acting from both Stephanie Romanov and Alexis Denisof in this scene. Stephanie played Lilah as someone who was acting uncharacteristically out of sheer desperation, as she dressed up like Fred in an attempt to try to keep from losing a man who was slowly slipping out of her grasp. Alexis played Wesley as a guy who, although upset that Lilah was mocking his beloved Fred, still couldn't help being amused and turned on by her delightful performance.

Stephanie gave the best explanation of why Lilah acted this way in an interview that appeared in Horror-Web.com back in 2004:
"I think it was jealousy, absolutely. Feeling threatened, so you make a joke out of that which hurts you. And if she can present it right in his face, she can get a better clue as to how much of a threat it is. It was also trying to get the inside scoop."
The scene also featured one of my favorite moments of kink in the series as Wesley pawed at her, ripped her blouse open, and ordered her to "leave them on" when Lilah tried to remove her glasses, all while they had at it right then and there on his couch.

3. Wesley Breaks Up With Lilah, from Season 4's "Habeas Corpses". (My review here.) This scene contains some of my favorite dialogue from Wesley in the entire series, including "There is a line, Lilah. Black and white, good and evil." Alexis Denisof didn't have nearly as much dialogue as Stephanie Romanov, but every line he delivered packed a powerful punch. Even his simple "I can't do this anymore" was emotionally gut-wrenching.

Again, both actors put in some of their finer performances. Alexis portrayed Wesley as being someone who had to be gentle, yet strong, unyielding and firm as he broke the bad news to Lilah, while being forced to suffer through witnessing her moments of humiliation and anger. Stephanie showed Lilah as being someone who was absolutely stunned and heartbroken by Wesley's decision. Lilah had been tough and in control almost all of her adult life, but came pretty close to losing it when she found out Wes was breaking up with her.

I've read a lot of online criticism at how Lilah debased herself by offering to put the glasses back on. The character of Lilah probably hated herself for acting like an idiot, which helped explain her stormy exit. I saw it as a woman who was rather unsuccessfully trying to deal with the emotional turmoil of not only being worried sick that Wesley had not survived the Night of Fire, but the devastation of a quick and sudden end to a relationship with someone who had probably been the love of her life.

I'm sure Lilah had other relationships before, but her time with Wesley represented a few precious moments where she could explore her softer and more vulnerable side. Then, in an instant, Lilah found out she was being rejected for being herself and for everything she stood for. As much as she should have seen the breakup coming, Lilah felt like she had been sucker-punched, and started acting out of pure, irrational, emotional instinct as much as anything. There aren't too many people in the world who can gracefully accept sudden devastatingly bad news.

2. The Burning the Contract Scene from Season 4's "Home". (My review here.) I feel guilty for not making this my favorite scene, since it had a lot of lovely qualities. This scene provided some closure to their relationship not only for Wesley and Lilah, but also for the audience. Earlier scenes in this episode somewhat puzzled me, since Wesley seemed to be spewing out a lot of inappropriate venom toward Lilah. Although his harsh words didn't seem to come from any sort of logical buildup in the episodes leading up to this, I wonder if he said those things to Lilah because he had to. It was not an appropriate time to accuse her of not being capable of feeling anything during their relationship, and Wesley couldn't have possibly believed it himself. However, he certainly must have felt those thoughts at one time or another, and never had the opportunity to really let his suspicions and frustrations bubble over.

One thing Wesley and Lilah were cheated out of was a chance to have a real knock-down drag-out fight at the end of their relationship. (Although Lilah hinted during their breakup scene, with the talk of the "broken furniture", that they might have had a few fights like these during their relationship.) (Come to think of it, the "broken furniture" could have happened as a result of making up after their arguments.) Circumstances didn't allow them to shout and fling accusations back and forth, and spill out their heartbreaks and disappointments before making their final peace with each other. This moving "burning the contract" scene was a more than acceptable substitute, as Wesley finally betrayed his love for Lilah by trying to release her from having to serve Wolfram & Hart "in perpetuity".

Stephanie Romanov has talked about how much the scene affected her, in how that was the first time in Lilah's life anyone ever put himself on the line for her. She was going back to Hell, but she at least knew that her relationship with Wesley did have purpose and meaning for both of them.

The juxtaposition of Lilah's more ruthless-as-ever stance with Angel and her more vulnerable and gentle-than-ever stance with Wesley was really quite effective. Lilah had plenty of opportunities to meet Wesley's venom with some memorable zingers of her own. Although she gave a little bit of it back to Wesley, her attitude was more in the line of meting out gentle reproaches. Perhaps she was doing her part to leave Wesley on the best possible terms, as well as to try to atone for some of her past actions.

1. Beheading Lilah, from Season 4's "Salvage". (My review here.) I can fully appreciate the irony in which Wesley beheading Lilah turns out to be my "favorite" scene. Luckily, all true Whedonites understand how some of the most beautifully moving scenes can occur under the most tragic and bizarre circumstances. Either that, or I'm hopelessly warped.

Both Alexis Denisof and Stephanie Romanov put in superb acting performances, with Denisof's Wesley being totally consumed by heartbreak and pain, and Romanov's Lilah supplying him with loving words of comfort. At one time, I thought Lilah herself was providing at least some of her own words, but now I have my doubts. My only disappointment (which almost made me put this scene in second place on my list) is that I'm about 90% sure that Wesley was providing all of Lilah's words, which somewhat diminishes the impact since we're not certain that this scene provides insight as to how Lilah truly felt when she was still alive.

Denisof's acting was the deciding factor in making this absolutely gut-wrenching scene my favorite, as he had to sort through his feelings of guilt for not being able to protect her and despair at not being able to bring her redemption. He had to overtly reject all notions of "love" and a "relationship" as a defense mechanism, which might have explained his apparent bitterness towards Lilah in "Home". Lilah had her chance to share her true feelings about Wesley in the "burning the contract" scene, while Wesley was able to pour out his emotions (much as he tried to deny them) just before he brought everything to an end with his axe.

Closing Thoughts. I can't help but notice that the majority of my Top 5 favorite Wesley/Lilah moments took place during and after their breakup. In many ways we discovered more about their feelings for each other after their breakup than when they were still together. The fact that Wesley risked his life to rescue Lilah from The Beast, who was rampaging through the offices of Wolfram & Hart almost immediately after their breakup, had to mean something. The raw emotions they exhibited made for searing drama as they laid their souls out for the whole world to see.

It was also telling how Wesley and everyone else validated their relationship after her death. Wesley referred to her as a "loved one", then rather unsuccessfully tried to cover it up by saying it was just a "figure of speech". Even his reference to "the last girl I was with", although not a ringing endorsement, was still what I considered to be a healthy acknowledgment that Lilah had been a significant part of his life.

Angel came out not just once, but twice, with his condolences to Wesley on his loss. Gunn's and Cordelia's condolences were less overt, but still nonetheless quite sincere. Only Fred, forever the wide-eyed idealist, couldn't seem to find it in her heart to offer any words of comfort to Wesley.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Alexis Denisof Interview Now Up on iTunes

Alexis Denisof's interview (here's my review) is now back up on the various Somewhere in Vegas/BlogTalkRadio sites. You can currently access it at the main Somewhere in Vegas/BlogTalkRadio page, this main Somewhere in Vegas page, or more permanently at the BlogTalkRadio Alexis Denisof interview perma link.

It's also available as a Somewhere in Vegas podcast over at iTunes. (Links to the iTunes podcasts also appear on the BlogTalkRadio pages.)

Please note that the first half-hour or so of the broadcast features an interview with singer/songwriter Shelly Raine.

Enjoy!