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?

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