Tuesday, January 5, 2010

After the Fall Volume 1 and First Night - Part 5 - Wesley's Job Description

(This is an ongoing series of posts where I discuss Angel: After the Fall Volume 1 and First Night Volume 2. My other posts are Part 1, which acted as an introductory post, Part 2: Working for the Senior Partners, Part 3: Angel, and Part 4: Wesley's First Night.)

In After the Fall: Volume 1, which started off a few months after the Angel TV series finale, there was a definite element of mystery surrounding ghostly Wesley Wyndam-Price's motivations for his actions. We saw a few moments where he was taking direct orders from Wolfram & Hart. However, for most of Wesley's appearances, we weren't sure if he was working on direct orders from the Senior Partners, if he was working on his own, or if he was being manipulated by Wolfram & Hart into thinking that he was acting on his own.

Just think of the number of times throughout the Angel TV series where the characters thought they were outwitting Wolfram & Hart, only to find out they had fallen into traps that had skillfully been set out for them by the lawyers. (A good example is Season 4's "Slouching Toward Bethleham", where Lilah set up Wesley to lure the Angel Investigations team away from the Hyperion Hotel so her security detail could move in and "extract" part of Lorne's brain.)

In many ways, Wesley was uniquely qualified to act on behalf of Wolfram & Hart. Particularly in Angel's Season 5, he showed he could be diplomatic, conciliatory and properly deferential while carrying out his duties as Angel's executive officer. With Illyria, Wes was close to being downright obsequious. Illyria wasn't the least bit fooled by Wesley's performance, but did appreciate his efforts in allowing her to try to save face as she attempted to deal with her diminished powers.

I've mentioned before how Wesley's diplomatic abilities served him well since he did an admirable job of standing up to one of the demon "lords" of Los Angeles who was threatening to go after Angel. Even though it was a great humiliation to have to work for Wolfram & Hart, it must have still given Wesley a great deal of satisfaction to be able to threaten to bring the full fury of the Senior Partners upon anyone who dared harm Angel, similar to how I'd love to bring a message from Goodfella "Paulie" some day to whatever entity is yanking me around.

I particularly liked a few comedic touches involving Angel and Wesley in Volume 1. Wesley facetiously told demon Lord Burge he would revoke Angel's TV privileges for the problems he was causing. Later on, Angel was reading a healing incantation from a book, and claimed that the next instructions informed him to put his hand on his hip and his other hand out, a la "I'm a Little Teapot". Wesley, being lovably gullible as usual, somewhat believed Angel for a very brief moment.

I also stated in an earlier post that:
Angel and Wesley seemed to derive a considerable amount of comfort from each other's presence, even though they were technically on opposite sides. Angel had to naturally distrust Wesley somewhat (even pointedly leaving Wesley behind in one scene while he made his rounds), but didn't seem to hold the fact that Wesley was a Wolfram & Hart lackey against him. Indeed, Wesley stepped in and helped diffuse potentially deadly situations between Angel and the various creepy "lords" of Los Angeles. Wesley's duties were still being defined and evolving, so Angel had to learn about Wesley's role practically at the same time Wesley did. It was quite telling that we never saw Angel grill Wesley about his motivations and what he was up to. It's possible Angel understood that Wesley, and even Angel, didn't have any real choice in the matter, and was tolerating Wesley's presence because it was better to have the lines of communication open with Wolfram & Hart than to be operating totally in the dark.
Even Angel and Wesley's initial meeting was rather touching, in which Angel was mystically teleported away from the First Night battle, and ended up at the ruins of Wolfram & Hart. Poor Angel was frantic to rejoin the fight, particularly since he was worried about the dying Charles Gunn. Expecting to take full advantage of his vampire strengths, Angel leaped from the top of the building, only to realize too late (after he hit the ground) that he was now in frail human form. With his body brutally twisted about on the ground, Angel insisted on heading back to the battle. Wesley made his appearance and sadly informed Angel, "I'm sorry". Even though I sometimes unfairly criticize comics for not fully developing their scenes, I thought this brief interlude conveyed an incredible amount of information about the nature of the love and friendship between Angel, Wesley, and to a lesser extent, Gunn.

At one point, Wesley advised Angel that he needed to start taking "baby steps" to start taking back control from Wolfram & Hart. I couldn't help but wonder if Wesley's seemingly brotherly advice was actually a directive from the Senior Partners. Even Angel wondered to himself at times exactly what Wesley was up to. At other times, Wesley warned Angel against fighting against all of the designated champions of the evil lords, and again I was wondering about his motivations. In the TV series, Wesley had always been somewhat of a worry-wart, and his warnings were often used as devices to emphasize the dangers, and possible foolhardiness, of Angel's intended actions. So, again. Was Wesley simply worried about his friend? Did the Senior Partners order him to turn Angel away from the rumble? Or was there reverse psychology involved, in which the Senior Partners knew that if Angel was ordered away from danger, he'd naturally do the opposite and seek it out instead?

In contrast to Angel's reactions, Lorne seemed to be freaked out by his first meeting with Wesley. When Wes commented on Lorne's uneasiness, Lorne replied, how else was he supposed to react when he met a champion-turned-ghost who was now working for Wolfram & Hart? Although Lorne was uneasy, it was more out of sorrow and disgust with how things were working out for Wes, rather than because he thought Wesley had consciously switched sides.

It was quite fascinating that while Wesley was trying to convince Lorne to talk Angel out of fighting the big brawl, our answers about Wesley's motivations seemed to be answered when all of a sudden he vaporized away from Lorne's side and was teleported back to the Wolfram & Hart dimension. W&H was not happy with how Wesley was operating as Angel's "cheerleader", and blamed Wes for allowing newly-vamped Charles Gunn to blow up the remains of the Wolfram & Hart offices. Again, Wesley made the best of a bad situation when he defiantly answered their charges, to the point where W&H temporarily sealed his mouth. W&H then proceeded to spend a short time torturing Wesley (where he dryly commented that having to wear the suit was the worst torture they were inflicting), then threatened to send either Lindsey or Eve back in his place to act as Angel's chaperon. Wesley informed the unseen W&H voices that Angel would never listen to Lindsey or Eve, and it was in their best interest to send Wes back to Angel's side.

Wolfram & Hart were quite open about what they didn't want Wesley to do on their behalf, but seemed quite vague on what they did want him to do. About the only thing the reader could figure out, (unless I missed something, which is always a huge possibility), was that Wolfram & Hart wanted to keep Angel protected and alive until he was needed for their purposes. There's no doubt in my mind that Wesley was actually doing as much as he could to take care of Angel and try to persuade him from taking part in the upcoming battle, but apparently that wasn't good enough. (Or, more significantly, Wesley was trying to keep Angel going for Angel's sake rather than for the Senior Partners' sake.) As a result, although Wesley's encounter with W&H seemed quite significant, we're still not any wiser as to how much Wesley was acting on his own and how much he was acting on orders. We could only assume that Wesley was skillfully biding his time until he could figure out a way out of this mess.

Volume 1 ended with all of Angel's allies (Charles Gunn was not an ally at this point) joining him at the beginning of his battle against all of the demon lords' champions, with Wesley popping in right in the middle of the fight. In the last panel, Illyria spotted Wesley in the middle of battle, and left us with the clilffhanger of her transforming into Fred's image.

In my next and final post, I'll talk about the rest of the characters in After the Fall Volumes 1 & 2 (First Night).

No comments: