Monday, February 8, 2010

Did Darla Have Much of a Choice? - Part 3

(This is the final post in an ongoing series about Angel Season 3 episodes "Offspring", "Quickening" and "Lullaby".)

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series of posts, I discussed Darla's and Angel's reactions to the arrival of their "miracle" child. The biggest question (or, perhaps a better word would be "worry") was, would Darla and Angel's offspring grow up to become the scourge of mankind as seemingly prophesied in the Nyazian scrolls? A more immediate question was, in the absence of conclusive evidence (I admit this question was a bit more relevant before the ultrasound was performed), should the offspring be killed immediately upon birth?

Darla tried everything she could to terminate the pregnancy (or, more honestly, she tried to kill the baby before it was born), but was unable to do so. Something (Season 4's Jasmine?) was protecting the child. Darla had no alternative but to bring the child to term. When she later came to Angel Investigations to enlist everyone's aid in finding answers to the mystery of the baby created by two vampires, she also lost out on the opportunity to become the sole decider of what would happen to the baby once it was born.

Angel, of course, was a vampire with a soul, and became a lovable softy when faced with the prospect of becoming a father. "They'll be no throwing of flames", Angel insisted in one memorable scene. It appeared that all of the members of the Angel Investigations team had some initial worries about the meaning of the upcoming birth. However, despite some "thinking out loud" blood-thirsty utterances, no one in the group strongly advocated killing the child outright. Ultimately, the decision was made to let the child live in the absence of any strong proof that the baby was destined to become an instrument of evil.

Even though the AI team appeared to be of one mind, there were still some interesting variations on their reactions to the upcoming birth.

Cordelia Chase. Cordelia was the one who was the most hurt by Darla's announcement, with this scene clearly showing her anger with Angel and her exaggerated (although still undeniably heartfelt) concern for Darla.

Just prior to Darla's arrival at the Hyperion, Angel and Cordelia had a few of those "are they finally going to get together?" moments here and here. Cordy's explanation that she was upset because his conduct was an admission that he had actively sought to surrender himself to the dark side, although valid, rang a little bit hollow. Although Cordelia was the one who always maintained she was not interested in Angel as a romantic partner, she obviously felt that Angel personally betrayed her by sleeping with Darla.

Of course Cordelia got her comeuppance when Darla attacked her in an effort to get enough blood to try to satisfy her extreme vampire thirst. In turn, Cordelia got her revenge when she punched Darla in the nose just before she started to apparently go into active labor.

Since the creators were focusing on Cordelia's reaction to Angel's "betrayal", we really don't know too much about her initial reactions about the child itself. Presumably, she was firmly in the "let's not kill the child unless we find out it would be a really good idea to do so" camp. A real turning point for Cordelia occurred when she thought through the implications of the vision that she had while simultaneously being attacked by Darla.

Everything started to make sense to Cordelia once she realized the child had a soul. Indeed, the existence of a soul was a real game changer for just about everyone, even though, as Sahjhan wisely noted about the nature of souls in general, "So Angel has a soul. Big whoop! So did Attila the Hun!" Angel's betrayal took a back burner as Cordelia realized there were more important things to concentrate on, such as, how the child fit in within the Tro-Clon confluence, and whether the child would ultimately work for the side of good or evil.

Cordelia enthusiastically embraced her visions from The Powers That Be, since those visions gave her purpose and meaning in life. As such, she wasn't getting any sort of clear-cut message from The Powers that the child was evil. When you add the fact that she was clearly influenced by Angel's emotions regarding his impending fatherhood, Cordelia was firmly committed to bringing the child to term, despite a few murmurs of doubts she professed here and there.

Angel was somewhat preoccupied with Darla during those times, with her being the mother of his child and all. However, Cordelia was clearly starting to open herself more to Angel since their mutual realization that the baby had a soul created an unmistakable additional bond between the two of them. Cordy certainly embraced the role of being the de facto mother to baby Connor after his birth. Taking it a step further, Angel and Cordelia's relationship definitely grew stronger once they became active partners in raising the child.

Charles Gunn. In contrast to Cordelia, Charles was the most vocal with his doubts concerning the baby, even after the discovery that the child had a soul. Gunn seemed to have the most personal animosity towards the demon world, and he always maintained somewhat of a shoot first, ask questions later attitude. When the ultrasound at the hospital proved that the child was human, Gunn's first spoken thoughts were, "Human as is in humanoid? As in cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers?" Even more tellingly, in his response to Angel's assumptions that The Powers had been protecting the baby all along, Gunn said what had to be said, even though Cordy chewed him out afterwards for his lack of sensitivity:
Gunn: We don't know that. We don't know that it's the Powers that's been protecting it. Angel, I'm sorry, but what if what Darla's carrying is the thing in the prophecies? That scourge of mankind that's supposed to plunge the world into ultimate darkness? What if... what if what's happening to Darla now, what if that's the Powers? Finally stepping up to the plate and doing something for once!"
Gunn was referring to the fact that the baby had come almost completely to term, only to start dying once Darla's contractions ceased. I had mentioned in a previous post, "And Fred Makes Five", that Charles was the least group-thinky member of Angel Investigations, and was the one who was most likely to think outside the box. Unfortunately for him, his relatively low status within the group ensured that his ideas were seldom carried out. Nevertheless, Gunn correctly guessed that The Powers That Be were not the ones actively protecting the baby, albeit they weren't exactly actively advocating the baby's murder either.

If Gunn was in a position of power I really don't think he would have ordered the baby's execution. When you're not the group leader, and particularly when you're the member of the group who's taken the least seriously, you have a certain freedom to run off at the mouth a bit with minimal risk of retribution.

Winifred Burkle. Fred seemed to offer the most visible support for the birth of the baby during the entire process. In fact, I don't recall that she said anything at all to suggest that it might have possibly been a good idea to get rid of the baby even before she knew the child had a soul. The worse things she managed to say about the baby was to suggest in one scene that maybe the baby didn't have a head, while in another scene she suggested it might have had two heads. Even then she came across as being rather non-judgmental about these concepts. Quite strikingly, when Fred asked Darla how she knew something was protecting the baby, and Darla responded "Because I can't get rid of it", the camera seem to pause an extra second on a visibly shaken Fred as she replied, obviously expressing Pro Life sentiments, "Sorry I asked". That wasn't the first time I noticed that the creators gave Fred a few gentle characteristics befitting a young woman who was raised in a Bible Belt region.

Even more tellingly, during an earlier scene in Caritas when there was much discussion as to the ultimate destiny of the child, Fred stated in her own inimitable way, "Can I say something about destiny? Screw destiny! If this evil thing comes we'll fight it, and we'll keep fighting it until we whoop it. 'cause destiny is just another word for inevitable and nothing's inevitable as long as you stand up, look it in the eye, and say 'you're evitable!' - Well, you- you catch my drift."

I can't help but mention that Cordelia would never have been able to get away with making such a ridiculous statement. However, all of the gentlemen in the group absolutely adored hearing those words spill out of cute little Fred. Even more importantly, Fred was espousing the birth of the child, to give it a good sporting chance to prove itself while dealing with the potential negative consequences later on.

Wesley Wyndam-Pryce. My best guess is that Wesley was skeptical about baby Connor's future, but did a good job of keeping an open mind about the child's fate. A good leader must be able to think logically while putting his or her own personal prejudices on the back burner. The leader should also be open and sensitive to the feelings and opinions of individuals while keeping the safety and interests of the overall group as his top priority. It's a delicate balancing act, but Wesley had a knack for that sort of thing. I was fascinated with the subtle shifts in the balance of power that were occurring in the top levels of Angel Investigations during the Darla maternity arc.

For the most part in late Season 2 and the early part of Season 3, Wesley was the nominal leader of Angel Investigations while Angel retained his position as de facto leader. I wouldn't go so far as to say that dynamic completely flip-flopped as Angel warmed up to the idea of being a father. However, Wesley found that he had to step up his leadership role quite a bit when it became obvious that Angel was becoming preoccupied with his son Connor. I had hinted in a post I did not too long ago, "Some Welcome Themes in 'Gingerbread' " that parents develop huge blind spots in their logical thinking when the welfare of their children is involved. Wesley had the sole responsibility of keeping the safety and interests of the group in the forefront. He could no longer rely on Angel to keep an open mind as to the potential for both good and evil in Connor.

Just as Angel made some obvious conscious efforts to step back and let Wesley take over, there were hints that Wesley was allowing Angel to take over at times in order to keep up the appearance that he still wielded considerable control over Wesley and the rest of the group. It was up to Wesley to keep researching the implications of Connor's birth and to keep asking the difficult questions. If he was going to maintain Angel's backing and to stay in his good graces, he'd have to maintain a deferential attitude towards Angel while continuing to humor him by allowing Angel to concentrate on Connor's best interests.

It was not obvious at the time that Connor's best interests and the group's best interests were one and the same. As I noted in my post, "Wesley's Path to Betrayal", Wesley became increasingly isolated from the rest of the group to the point where he had no one he could bounce his ideas off of. Unfortunately, this led to the tragic series of events which resulted in Wesley's kidnapping of Connor.

Idle Thoughts. I loved that scene in "Quickening" where everyone except Angel put in their two cents worth about killing Darla and Angel's offspring immediately after its birth. It provided a nice moment of black humor. Unfortunately, upon reviewing the episodes, it appears that this scene appeared in the wrong place on the timeline. Even though this scene occurred before the ultrasound when everyone received proof that the baby was human, they had already found out in the prior episode that the baby had a soul. By this time, Angel Investigations was already firmly committed to finding out everything they could about the baby before making a judgment about his life.

In "Lullaby", an out-of-control Darla sent Wesley, Cordelia, Fred and Gunn flying off in different directions in the alleyway by the Hyperion Hotel. In the audio DVD commentary for this episode, writer Mere Smith mentioned that she really liked how Alexis Denisof/Wesley looked without his glasses while he was waking up out of unconsciousness. It can't be that much of a coincidence that Mere Smith wrote "Birthday" (which aired a few weeks later), where an incredibly handsome Wesley appeared without glasses in Cordelia's alternate reality.

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