Friday, March 5, 2010

A Family Divided

(Note: I'm working my way through the Angel DVD's and I've made it up through Season 3's "The Price".)

For someone who runs a blog about Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, it's amazing that I haven't written more about his relationship with Fred Burkle on Angel. The main reason is that I never really saw that much going on between the two of them. It seemed like a one-way street for most of the series run. Wesley was infatuated with Fred, while Fred was being nice to Wesley the same way she was nice to everyone else. Even Willow Rosenberg messed up when she misinterpreted Fred's girlish friendliness as lesbian overtures during Season 4's "Orpheus".

There's room for plenty of interpretations as to why Fred consistently stood up for Wesley after he kidnapped baby Connor in Season 3. Perhaps she had fallen in love with him. The way I look at it is that, of all of the Angel Investigations crew members, she was the only one who viewed Wes as the calm, capable leader of the group. She might have even been a little in awe of him, and worked hard to impress him much like a student likes to impress a favorite teacher. The rest of AI remembered Wesley from his earlier days as the lovable goofball who kept messing things up. I thought this scene in "The Price" explained just about everything:
FRED: It's funny. Well, sad, actually... I keep expecting to find... I mean, it's weird seeing Angel sitting at that desk.

GUNN: (shrugging) It was his when I got here. Seems right that it's his again.

FRED: Yeah. But, thing's have cooled down a little since...I'm just saying maybe it's time to... Look, he doesn't have to forgive Wesley.

GUNN: (snort) Glad you think so, 'cuz not happenin'.
There's a little more to it, so I'll let you read the rest if you're interested. Regardless, I'll grant that perhaps Fred might have been a little sweet on Wesley, even though she was seriously committed to Charles at the time. Let's face it - when you're young and attractive, and you're surrounded by young and attractive people, it's only natural that your interests can start to wander a bit. People in firmly committed relationships develop minor crushes on other people all of the time without anything happening beyond the look-and-admire stage.

Ironically, the scene in "Double or Nothing" where Fred brought Wesley's things to him in the hospital and told him to never come back because he was a bad, bad, man made me think that she had deeper feelings for Wesley than what I was giving her credit for. First, she did that classic move in Angel where a character speaks softly or sympathetically in a way that will deceive and disarm the opponent, then switches to the attack and administers the coup de grace. (Wesley did a variation in this scene from "That Old Gang of Mine".) In Fred's case, she delivered the blow like this:
FRED: Oh. But it's not permanent, though? [His injury]. I brought you some of your stuff from the office. Things there are... well, things. (Takes deep breath) Gunn and I found your notes about...the baby,...prophecy. You took him away 'cause you thought Angel was gonna kill him. You were trying to protect him. Both of them. I just wanted you to know I understand that. I also wanted to say, I thought what Angel tried to do to you was wrong, and I'm sorry.

(Wes looks at her, grateful.)

FRED: But he was right to blame you, Wesley. You should've come to us. You should've trusted us instead of going to Holtz behind our back. You were supposed to be our friend and you didn't even... If Angel sees you again, he'll kill you, Wesley. This time for real. Don't come back to the hotel. Ever.
I've dismissed this as Fred's hissy fit before in the past. However, I'm naturally seeing a lot more to this scene upon later viewings. A lot of times we reserve our biggest outbursts for the people we care for the most. Any kid who's wandered into the house an hour past curfew can attest to how their worried parents seem more angry than anything. Whether Fred was in love with Wesley, felt affection for him as a family member, hero-worshipped him, or whatever, she was obviously heart-broken and felt personally betrayed by his actions.

I also found another interesting dynamic going on, where people are forced to choose their loyalties after a split in the family has occurred. There were too many strong emotions involved between Angel and Wesley to allow for any sort of quick reconciliation. They were two loyal friends who had been split apart by the most horrible of misunderstandings. I've also written at great length about another interesting dynamic, where Wesley was the nominal leader and Angel maintained his de facto leadership position. After the split occurred, each member of the Angel Investigations team lined up behind the real leader of the group, Angel, and, for various reasons, completely turned their backs on Wesley.

The constant theme circulating around was that Angel would kill Wesley if he ever saw him again. It naturally followed that if Wesley ever set foot in the Hyperion Hotel again, Angel would probably have killed him right on the spot. Everyone agreed that speaking about Wesley in front of Angel was not a great idea. Angel cut quite an imposing figure, and had the reputation to match. If a character even started to talk about Wesley, one look at Angel's rapidly clouding features was enough to stop that person in his or her tracks. Unspoken, but firmly planted in the forefront of everyone's minds, was the idea that if any of them went to Wesley for any reason at all, Angel would consider that person to be a traitor. That person would then risk incurring whatever type of vengeance Angel was capable of delivering at that time.

Fred was the one who consistently assured everyone that Angel wouldn't really kill Wesley, which was probably true. Angel was well-known for his idle threats, after all. However, whenever Fred made those remarks, people would give her those funny looks that said "You're missing the point." Making Angel confront his feelings towards Wesley at that time was a can of worms that was better left unopened for a while.

Getting back to Fred at Wesley's hospital room, I can get a sense of what types of emotions were swirling through her at that time. Similar to how Charles did his "cruel to be kind" routine to get Fred out of his life before he attempted to give up his soul to Jenoff, Fred treated Wesley in a similar fashion as a coping strategy to get through a very difficult breakup. She had to tell Wesley to stay out of their lives because she made her choice to stay with Gunn and Angel. However, Fred was absolutely heartbroken because she was forced to make an all or nothing decision. There was no way she would ever be able to see Wesley again without arousing the suspicion or wrath of the other Angel Investigations crew.

This piece of dialogue delivered by Cordelia Chase in "The Price" also rubbed me the wrong way. Again, Fred was trying to plead her case to get Angel to reconcile with Wesley.
FRED: Cor...?

CORDELIA: No. (off her look) You want me to say something to Angel about Wesley. Sorry. Can't. Won't.

FRED: Why? Why can't you? You've known them both longer than anybody. Angel would listen to you...

CORDELIA: Probably. But he doesn't want to hear it. Which is why I'm not going to burden him--

FRED: Look, whatever he did... It's Wesley. You care about it. I know you do. Can you imagine the pain he's in, how horrible he must be feeling--

CORDELIA: Angel's feelings are the only ones I care about. He's my priority.
Unfortunately for Cordy, Groo overheard what she said and interpreted her comments more accurately than even Cordelia was aware of. But for my purposes, Cordelia was not only declaring her love (in so many words) for Angel over the Groosalugg, she was also completely turning her back on Wesley. What a cruel way to treat a man who had done so much for her over the last 2-3 years. Just like that, it seemed as though their fond feelings for each other and their shared history were wiped clean from the books. Maybe Cordy didn't have to sympathize with or agree with what Wesley did, but she could at least have gone over to his apartment to see how he was doing and hear his side of the story.

Fred might have felt bad about how she lacked the courage to act against the wishes of the group and seek out Wesley on her own. That's why it was so important for her to try to recruit someone else to her cause. Cordelia calmly and cold-heartedly decided to cut Wesley completely out of her life. Perhaps this was another sign that, rather than evolving into a higher being worthy of The Powers That Be, she was slowly losing her soul to Jasmine, the former Power who would eventually consume her life.

With everything else that was going on, I was grateful that Charles snuck out of the Hyperion Hotel to seek Wesley's help when they come under siege from the sluk demons. Gunn was not only escaping from the sluk demons, he was also escaping from Angel's control. We can see in this scene how reluctant Charles was to admit (in a "dares not speak his name" sort of way) that he broke the embargo on visiting Wesley. We also saw how Angel appeared to give his approval for Charles' actions. This was the first glimmer of hope we were given that Wesley would eventually be brought back into the group. It's just too bad that bratty teenage Connor had to jump back into the mix at that time.

Idle Thoughts. "The Price" also featured that wonderful scene where Lilah had to use the "Magic Bug" tarantula to type out the password so she could read the Top Secret email. (For whatever reason it's very hard to find this scene in transcripts.) It's too bad that by this time, Gavin Park's pain-in-the-ass personality was getting old pretty quickly. Lilah received her new playmate in the series (Wesley) just in the nick of time.


Lisa said...

Cordelia's dismissal of Wesley in late season 3 marked the beginning of the end for her character, as far as I am concerned. I couldn't believe that. I'll take bitchy Cordelia any day - the one who actually had a heart. You are right: she didn't have to agree with what Wesley did, but she could have shown some sympathy.

Poor Wes :(

Miriam said...

"I'll take bitchy Cordelia any day - the one who actually had a heart"

Exactly. It's amazing how Bitch Queen Cordelia probably had the most heart of anybody.