Monday, April 19, 2010

Wesley and His Women

(Photo credit: Wesley and Fred as portrayed by Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker, at TVLoop.)

This is a post I've been wanting to do for a very long time. Now that I've finally seen all of Wesley Wyndam-Pryce's appearances on Buffy the Vampire Slayer I feel I can finally do justice to the subject matter.

When I started this post I was curious to see if his relationships mirrored his own personal growth and development as he worked his way through life. It sounds like a slightly hokey premise, but I guess I'll just let the stories speak for themselves.

Cordelia Chase. If you want to take the "growing with each relationship" analogy to heart, Wesley's time with Cordelia Chase would mark a good starting point. It would certainly help if we knew Wesley's exact age when he first arrived in Sunnydale. I've speculated in the past, based on hardly any evidence at all, that he was somewhere between 22 and 32 years old, with my best (or depending on how you look at it, my worst) guesstimate leaning towards the younger age.

Joss Whedon, in his commentary for Season 4's "Spin the Bottle", made it a point to say that the 17-year old Wesley being portrayed in that episode was totally clueless about how to act around Fred and Cordelia. Clearly he did not get an early start in his training. When he arrived in Sunnydale as a young adult, Wesley was a nervous wreck around Cordelia. He could have been totally inexperienced at that time, but I've also conjectured that just about any man would have been transformed into a bumbling idiot if he was being propositioned by such a luscious underage coed. Based on their disastrous kiss in the Sunnydale High School library, it looks like Wesley would have to accept the "blame" since the onus would have been on him to successfully carry it off. If he had much in the way of experience with girls at that point, we certainly weren't seeing any evidence of it on-screen.

Although Wes and Cordy failed to connect (so to speak) as lovers, they did embark on a warm and lovely friendship that survived well into Season 3, with a final acknowledgement of their relationship coming in Season 5's "You're Welcome". Wesley was not quite a father-figure, and not quite a big brother to Cordelia. Instead, he was able to fulfill his need to satisfy what I considered to be his innate Watcher tendencies, where he was able to cherish and nurture a young woman and act as her protective guide.

I believe I might have posted something weird in the past like "Cordelia felt she was safe to experiment with her sexuality" around Wesley. A person could get kind of a wild picture of what I was trying to say without a more complete explanation. I'll have to leave that as a teaser for another post. Suffice it to say, Cordelia could talk about sex with Wesley and indulge in certain behaviors without fear of judgment from him, knowing full well that he'd always be there for her regardless of the circumstances.

During most of their time together on Angel, Wes and Cordy's relationship appeared to be somewhat one-sided, with Wesley clearly doting on Cordelia while she simply lapped up his attention. However, despite her "honesty", it was clear that Cordelia still had a hard time acknowledging her true feelings. Suffice it to say, they clearly adored each other and enjoyed a friendship that, if we played with the semantics a bit, we could also claim was a loving relationship.

Unnamed bleached blonde, Mistress Spanks-a-Lot and handcuffs. There were a lot of hints scattered throughout the series that Wesley had a rather active social life outside of Angel Investigations, which I talked about briefly in this post. As such, it would have been perfectly natural for him to bring a girl to his apartment once in a while. Of course we have no idea how active Wesley's unknown sex life was, but I've chosen in the past to take this quote from Alexis Denisof and run with it.
"... there are allusions made to his sex life from time to time, that he may be more than meets the eye in that department, he’s going out and having a wild time and keeping it quiet."
My best guess is that, in a stereotypical reaction to his repressed upbringing, Wesley probably enjoyed his sex a bit on the kinky side. One can't ignore the "secret" videotape in Season 2's "Blood Money" where he recorded himself performing an outrageously dorky striptease! Being the perfect gentleman, he wasn't going to pressure a girl into doing more than what she was ready for. Wes may have found a willing partner who didn't mind playing with his handcuffs. However, to satisfy his need for kink, he might have been tempted to seek out more formal arrangements through BDSM clubs or similar establishments. (Let's hope Wesley never visited a demon brothel outside of the line of duty!) These visits might have made for thrilling nights on the town once in a while, but he hardly would have been making soulful connections with anyone.

This is as good a place as any to wonder out loud, could Wesley have been gay? I really don't want to address the issue since I don't care one way or another, yet I don't want to look like I'm deliberately ignoring the 2-ton elephant in the room either. I don't see much evidence that he was gay outside of the fact that he liked tea sets and enjoyed reading books. I have seen old forums where people joked that Wesley's "bleached blonde" could have been Spike!

I think the writers liked to routinely sprinkle in a few salacious tidbits either for their own amusement or just to give the fans something to talk about. At some point we have to consider, were these tidbits meant to be taken seriously, or were the writers just messing with us? All of these "allusions" to his sex life could have simply been thrown out there for comic effect, since it seemed so incongruous to think of dry, boring, old academic Wesley whooping it up in his off-duty hours.

Virginia Bryce. In many ways this could have been the perfect relationship for Wesley. Both Wes and Virginia came from comfortable, sheltered backgrounds where they were steeped in magic from very early ages. Virginia was just starting to emerge from her cocoon and needed to learn how to deal with the real world. Wesley would have had the opportunity to do what he loved best, which was jump into his Watcher mode and be a nurturing guide to a beautiful young woman (while charmingly only being a few steps ahead of her out of clueless school himself.) It was an extra bonus for Wesley that Virginia wasn't a total innocent and was eager for sex!

Even though the audience didn't see Wesley with any women from the time he kissed Cordelia in Sunnydale and his hookup with Virginia, it was obvious he had gained a considerable amount of experience in the meantime. (Assuming that you take the view that Cordelia marked his first "relationship".) Although Wes had a somewhat difficult time trying to impersonate Angel in Season 2's "Guise Will Be Guise", one place he wasn't clumsy was in Virginia's bed.

"Guise Will Be Guise" represented Wesley's growth as a character in so many ways. He quickly became a more effective fighter and leader. Virginia helped boost his overall confidence levels, and Wes ended up being much more self-assured throughout the remainder of the series. I've noticed many times that people can be plugging along through life without a whole lot to show for their efforts. Then all of a sudden they get a lucky break. A child can unexpectedly get a good test score, or an athlete can come out of nowhere to put in an outstanding individual performance. A professional can even receive some profuse but slightly undeserved praise for work he did on a minor project. At that point, all of the pressure is taken off of their shoulders, and these people can start to blossom now that they can continue on with a lot more confidence and self-esteem.

Virginia Bryce represented that lucky break for Wesley. She knew nothing about his prior history, so she wasn't burdened by years of viewing Wes as a bumbling fool. Although he started off kind of ragged in his role of Angel the Vampire, Wesley quickly gained Virginia's respect and trust, first by laying down the ground rules (in the same link immediately listed above), and also by driving off her potential kidnappers on two different occasions.

Wesley wasn't as buff as Angel or as debonair as James Bond, but Virginia only saw (and fully appreciated) his best qualities. One of my favorite little "quiet moments" in the entire series occurred when Wesley was telling Virginia about how he and the rest of the crew had been fired by Angel. Virginia, showing her complete lack of understanding of the outside world, naively asked Wesley, ".....can you file a grievance with the union?". I loved that slightly exasperated yet patient tone of voice Wesley used as he explained to Virginia, "Virginia, I'm not in a union..."

When Wesley further explained that he didn't even know his job title, Virginia countered with:
VIRGINIA: You're a renowned specialist in, in supernatural aid and rescue.

WESLEY: No, I'm just...renowned? [Wesley looked quite pleased at the thought.]

VIRGINIA: [In a very sincere and sweet tone of voice]. Well, to me you are. You saved my life!
Everyone deserves to feel like he or she is the center of someone else's universe, if only for a little while. Probably no one had ever looked up to Wesley as an adored hero before he met Virginia, and he was clearly enjoying the occasion. Unfortunately, in what I think could have been the fatal flaw in their relationship, Virginia could have been a little too confident about Wesley's abilities. She could have potentially turned into the nagging spouse who was always pushing Wes to try to do things outside of his capabilities and comfort zone. Neither of them needed that type of relationship, where she would always be a little dissatisfied and he would always feel like he could never quite live up to her standards. So it was probably for the best that she couldn't handle the dangers that he faced and they ended the relationship later in Season 2.

At its best, the relationship could have been about two crazy-in-love sheltered people setting out to explore a bewildering but exciting new world filled with normal people doing normal things. Although Wes and Virginia didn't last too long together, they both received wonderful benefits from each other that changed their lives for the better.

Lilah Morgan. (As an aside, I wasn't sure where to place Fred Burkle in this post. Each placement presented its own set of challenges. I literally flipped a coin to see who would come first, and Lilah won the coin toss.)

I've mentioned before that it seemed that Wesley enjoyed both his Good Girls and his Bad Girls, but also liked to keep them compartmentalized. Lilah Morgan definitely fell into the Bad Girls camp.

In direct contrast to Wesley's encounters with Fred throughout most of her run on Angel, Wes and Lilah's relationship seemed to crackle with electricity starting with their very first meeting at his apartment in Season 3 when Lilah arrived to offer him a job with Wolfram & Hart. As an aside, I recently read an excerpt from an interview with Alexis Denisof where I thought he gave the definitive answer to how much of Wes and Lilah's relationship was plotted out by the scriptwriters in advance. (Or so I thought, until I couldn't find the interview later on in either my bookmarked pages or search engine results.) However, if my memory is correct, Alexis seemed to imply that the creators were somewhat surprised when they looked at the edited footage to see how much chemistry existed between Wes and Lilah. The writers then went ahead and decided to turn their encounters into a full-fledged relationship. I'm not sure when that happened, but it was probably some time between Seasons 3 and 4. This gives credence to what Stephanie Romanov said in previous interviews about how their relationship grew "organically". I hope I run across Alexis' interview again so I can post the link.

Although I've made some half-hearted guesses that Wes was in his 20's throughout Buffy and Angel, that theory starts to fall apart when we view his relationship with Lilah. Lilah may have been slightly older than Wes (her Mrs. Robinson comment, while ostensibly aimed at Connor, could have almost equally applied to Wesley as well), yet Wes and Lilah seemed to be remarkably evenly matched. They seemed to have the same level of maturity, and were both very intelligent and extremely attractive. Lilah might have had the edge in the worldly sophistication department, but Wesley had other qualities that brought him on an equal footing with her.

Wes and Lilah also had a lot in common in their interests and their career fields, which was obviously conducive to talking "shop". More importantly, neither of them were in a relationship at the time of their first meeting. I've chronicled before about how it must have been almost impossible for Lilah to have a relationship with anyone while she was working at Wolfram & Hart, while Wesley was involuntarily alienated from the girl he considered to be the most wonderful creature in the world.

I don't have the luxury of going back in time without the benefit of spoilers and trying to determine if it seemed inevitable that they would hook up. However, even in Wes and Lilah's early encounters, there was a lot of interesting stuff going on between them that made us eagerly look forward to their next scenes together. I also can't help but think that they might have picked up signals during their first meeting that identified each other as potential partners in kink!

I'm highly influenced by Lewis Call's essay "Sounds Like Kinky Business To Me: Subtextual and Textual Representation of Erotic Power in the Buffyverse", which can be found at the Slayage site. He came right out and said in Paragraph 47 that,
Lilah is unsurprisingly kinky. Like many professionals, she switches her toppy professional persona for a submissive one in the bedroom.
Although that wasn't obvious to me early on, I did notice that Lilah enjoyed challenging Wesley to take control over her. She might have ultimately been submissive, but she didn't make it easy for Wesley, which suited both of them just fine.

Lilah might have been a Bad Girl, but Wesley received some enormous benefits from their relationship. Again quoting from Lewis Call,
Lilah turns out to be remarkably service-oriented. She has phone sex with Wes, and he is firmly in dominant mode: he orders her to take her panties off while she's in a meeting ....... She even impersonates Fred to give Wes his ultimate Texas schoolgirl fantasy ...... She teaches Wes how to play safely, sanely and consensually—for somebody who's "evil," she actually gives him a tremendous boon. Does he understand this?
Presumably any repeated contacts Wesley had with a Bad Girl was more like a series of one night stands. Therefore, I think Wesley was quite surprised to find that he was actually falling for Lilah. Although Wes was the first to talk about a "next time" and was the one who lost the bet by calling their affair a "relationship", Lilah was clearly falling for Wesley as well. (I'll be blunt: I think they loved each other.) Lilah could have easily been the one to first talk about a "next time" and a "relationship", but she may have been holding back in order to avoid exposing her emotional vulnerabilities. Lilah's looks of joy and contentment when Wesley made his "mistakes" completely betrayed the feelings that she had for him.

In one of life's cruel jokes, the closer they grew to each other, the more impossible it became for them to stay together. (Alexis Denisof used the beautiful analogy of Icarus flying too close to the sun.) Their entire relationship seemed to be built on mutual betrayals, which they just couldn't seem to get away from. Lilah appeared to suffer the most from their breakup, but it seemed to be equally as brutal for Wesley as witnessed by this ghost scene.

Their lovely burning the contract scene provided some sort of closure to their relationship, yet it hardly provided any comfort seeing as how Lilah was destined to spend the rest of her existence in Hell. Wesley's relationship with Lilah marked a definite advancement in his maturity level, but it does seem that the series' creators dropped the ball on her influences after her last appearance in the Season 4 finale "Home". (Even Lindsey McDonald was referenced quite a bit after he left in Season 2.) I might be asking a bit much since Mutant Enemy did give her a generous sendoff from the series, but I really thought the After the Fall comics would have benefited greatly if the creators had even just acknowledged her presence. Starting with Season 5 and throughout the first four volumes of the comic continuation series, it became All Fred All the Time for Wesley, which left the distressing impression that Lilah didn't leave any sort of lasting mark on him.

Justine Cooper. This is a weird one, to say the least! The quick synopsis: Justine was bitter because her sister was killed by a vampire; she made it her life's ambition to kill Angel while she served as a "soldier" in vampire-killer Holtz' "army"; Wesley seemed to take somewhat of an interest in her in a rather hostile saving-her-soul sort of way; he kidnapped Baby Connor while he was under the mistaken impression that Angel was going to kill the infant; Justine rewarded Wesley for his troubles by slitting his throat, kidnapping Connor, leaving Wesley for dead, and setting up a chain of events which resulted in Connor being raised in a hell dimension; when Wesley found out Angel went missing, he correctly guessed that Justine had something to do with his disappearance, so he kidnapped her and held in bondage in a cage in his bedroom closet; there was nothing erotic whatsoever about their relationship; Wes forced Justine to help him look for Angel on the bottom of the ocean during their periodic "boat rides"; Justine mocked Wesley the entire time she was in captivity; after they rescued Angel, Wesley handcuffed Justine to some sort of dock rail, gave her a pithy little speech about being a "slave" [to her hatreds and her need for revenge] and "living her life", and that was the last we ever saw of her.

Although I wrote "there was nothing erotic whatsoever about their relationship" up above, there was an undeniably sexy scene in Season 4's "Deep Down" where Wesley and Lilah had just finished making love. After Lilah left his apartment, Wesley pulled on his jeans, didn't bother to put on a shirt, walked over to his closet (with the camera focusing on his lower abdominals and belt region the entire time), opened the door to reveal a bound and gagged Justine, and informed her "It's time. Let's go for a boat ride." In fact, that little scene for me is by far the sexiest moment in the entire series! And, why oh why didn't Wesley wear blue jeans more often?

I'm not motivated to pull out my Season 1 DVD's just to get an exact quote. However, in the commentary for the Season 1 series premiere, "City of", Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt explained (in regards to this scene) something to the effect that "when it's not about sex, it's all about sex." I would also add to that a basic "less is more" philosophy that I have about eroticism in general. Although I didn't notice any currents of sexual tension flowing directly between Wesley and Justine, the eroticism was nonetheless still swirling all around them.

I've mentioned before that I thought that the image of a bound-and-gagged Justine was mostly a metaphor for the unseen kink that was occurring between Wesley and Lilah in his bedroom, and, by extension, perhaps had occurred in the past between Wes and some other unknown participants. On a more obvious level, it was certainly a metaphor for the depths Wesley had descended to during his darkest moments. The scene was meant to shock the viewers and, based on fan forum boards, I think it succeeded a little bit too well.

Does the bondage scene leave an opening for viewers to believe that Wesley and Justine were having a sexual relationship? Absolutely! You'd have to blind not to see the almost way-too-obvious signs. However, for me, the signs (bondage, a shirtless Wesley) are little more than visual props, on the level of having an erotic sculpture prominently displayed on a nightstand. I personally don't believe Wesley and Justine were having sex, but I certainly wouldn't order people who disagreed with me to change their minds.

Faith. This is another good illustrative instance of "when it's not about sex, it's all about sex". To steal from a previous post I did about their Season 4 adventures, I wrote,
In these two episodes, Wesley was at the height of his bad-ass days. He was positively dripping with sex! Add an equally bad-ass Faith with her always in-your-face sexuality, and you get explosive results. These two never kissed, never almost-kissed and never even thought about almost-kissing. They didn't have to. Their scenes were hot enough as they were. Anything else would have been overkill.
It's no coincidence that some of the best fanfic in the Buffyverse revolve around the NC-17 adventures of Wesley and Faith. About the only good reason why Joss didn't let the two of them have at it was that it would have been disrespectful to let them overshadow the star of the show, David Boreanaz. I know that for Faith it was all about redemption. It's just too bad that redemption didn't allow the formerly nymphomaniac Faith to have a sex life.

I know I'm repeating myself a lot, but I mentioned recently that, now that I've seen some key earlier Buffy episodes after having seeing the entire Angel series, I'm really not gaining the additional insights from Buffy that I was expecting. Although Eliza Dushku as Faith always exuded a lot of erotic energy even when she was doing something horrible like torturing her victims, there was nothing from Buffy or Season 1 of Angel that explained to me why Wes and Faith got along so famously in Season 4 of Angel. I know she was trying to atone for her past sins , including when she tortured Wesley in Season 1's "Five by Five", while Wesley was trying to redeem himself as a failed Watcher. However I'm still amazed at how they worked together as if they'd been teamed up for years, almost to the point where they seemed to instinctively always know what the other person was going to do. I thought their continuity was a bit off from Season 1 to Season 4, but that's just a minor criticism.

Wesley's teaming up with Faith also brought into focus how much he had changed over the last few seasons of Angel. Wes seemed to now appreciate some of her same behaviors that had irritated him so much in the past. I loved the mutual double entendres in this scene where Wesley tested her out in the field. In response to her past need for hot sex after she dusted a few vampires (BTW, how did Wesley know about that? it takes one to know one, I guess) Wes told her, "Thought you could use a little release. Feel natural?"

Faith, being 100% Faith in her response, answered, "Ah, it's like riding a biker".

I need to abruptly stop this section because I'm currently going through the Season 4 episodes of Angel on my DVD's. Although I've written about Wes and Faith a few times in the past, I don't think I've written my definitive posts about them yet. Suffice it to say, they were hot together as they effectively terrorized LA's demon underworld! (Afterthought: I would be remiss if I didn't at least mention this scene from Season 4's "Release". I happen to think this is one of the more erotic moments in the entire Angel series, where Wesley was tenderly trying to examine her wounds, even though they barely touched each other. I'm sure that his past treatment at her hands was foremost in their thoughts, which brought an appealingly gentle awkwardness to the moment.)

Fred Burkle. I thought I'd have a hard time writing about Fred so late in my post, since she was front and center in Wesley's mind ever since the very end of Season 2. However, it's telling that I found it was actually easier than I thought to put off talking about her, probably because I never felt there was very much depth to their relationship. It's also telling that, in a recent poll I discovered about Fred and Wesley's Best Scenes, some of the top ones listed were: Wesley apologizing to Fred after he almost killed her in "Billy", Wesley protecting Fred from the crossfire shootout in Caritas in "That Old Gang of Mine", and Fred rejecting Wesley in "Waiting in the Wings".

Another scene I would add to the Top Fred/Wesley list is this scene from Season 3's "Double or Nothing", where Fred chewed out Wesley for betraying the group. I wrote fairly recently that Fred was absolutely devastated that a man she looked up to and obviously had a few feelings for turned out to be capable of making some very horrible and human mistakes. It's too bad that it didn't hit me until I saw the episode about three times and only figured it out because I was on a mission to watch Season 3 and 4 episodes and look very closely for clues that Fred might have been in love with Wesley.

There is something to be said about the heartbreaking drama of lost loves and missed opportunities. However, the viewer has to be convinced ahead of time that the two characters were destined for each other before the so-called tragedies occur. I always thought the relationship was mostly one-sided, with Wesley obsessing over Fred as being the ideal embodiment of womanhood, while Fred was just floating cluelessly around trying to figure out how she fit into her world after she came back from Pylea.

Don't get me wrong. Even I'm not dense enough to have missed the dozens of little hints sprinkled here and there that Fred liked Wesley. However, in direct contrast to how Wes and Lilah's relationship evolved organically, I thought those moments with Fred looked rather contrived. The audience was being led on a little too much about which direction Fred and Wesley's relationship was supposed to be heading. I'm trying to come up with a more definitive Fred/Wesley post, but it's a tough challenge for me, particularly when their Season 4 encounters devolved into a series of "stop....stare at each other across the room....have awkward conversations with plenty of pregnant and Very Meaningful pauses" moments. Wesley was wonderfully angsty during their entire relationship, but I never felt that Fred was losing much sleep over it.

Probably just because it was the final buildup to their "Smile Time" kiss, Season 5 was the only part of the series where I really thought something remotely interesting was happening between Fred and Wesley. All the time Fred was talking to Wesley about Knox, she was perhaps sending a few vibes toward Wesley? Her feelings for Wesley became a lot more clearer when he saved her life after killing the cyborg replica of his father in "Lineage", and particularly while she cast her goo-goo eyes at Wesley as he was giving the incantation that would reveal Lindsey to the Senior Partners in "You're Welcome". Any lingering doubts that anyone had about Fred's feelings for Wesley disappeared when she came on to him in a big way in "Smile Time" here and here, resulting in the so-obvious-even-Wesley-could-figure-it-out moment here. Fred being obvious about her feelings for a clueless Wesley in Season 5 worked much better than Wesley being obvious about his feelings for a clueless Fred in Seasons 3 and 4.

I made an observation in a recent post that I'm reasonably sure that Fred and Wesley never slept together. To Wesley, Fred was a "Good Girl", or someone he didn't drag into bed with him at the first opportunity. I don't think Wesley had any hangups per se about having sex with sweet Fred, but I think he was savoring the moment and slowly working up to inviting her to stay the night, somewhat like a real courtship. There's nothing wrong with flowers, dinner and a movie first! I think it would have been really cute if their relationship had lasted a little longer and Fred openly seduced Wesley into getting down to business a bit more quickly.

Fred came across as being sweet and innocent, and good mommy material, but there were hints that she might not have minded a little bit of kink herself. It was revealed in "Spin the Bottle" that Fred was somewhat of a pothead in high school (and by that I mean she wasn't afraid to experiment with the wild side), and she didn't exactly shy away from talking about her "disgust" with the idea of alien probes. Plus, there was good evidence that she and Gunn enjoyed a good healthy bedroom relationship in their own right. It might have been even cuter to see Wesley's reaction the first time he was confronted by the sight of Fred brandishing a pair of handcuffs! It might have taken him a little while to get used to the idea that the girl of his dreams was literally making his dreams come true.

Illyria. Whereas Wesley was at his best as a true Watcher in the classical sense when he was working with Faith the Slayer, his brief time with demon-goddess Illyria marked the zenith of his other Wesley the Watcher persona. What I've described about his Wesley the Watcher tendencies in the past, (and as I discussed above regarding his relationship with Cordelia), was that Wesley had an innate ability and need to be able to teach, nurture, guide, cherish and otherwise watch over young women as they set out on their paths through life. He had the knack of being able to mentor these ladies while still giving them a remarkable degree of space and independence. He knew when to step in and when to step away, and was able to do so without suffocating them or leaving them in the lurch.

Illyria wasn't "young" by any stretch of the imagination, but she was hardly a withered crone either. She really brought a lot of Wesley's best qualities out into the open. He could truly take pity on a creature trying to adapt to her new world, even though she unwittingly destroyed the literal love of his life (Fred) by taking over her body. Although After the Fall brought their relationship to a satisfying conclusion, we can only dream about how truly remarkable a bona fide Season 6 of Angel would have been with Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker continuing on with their roles.

It didn't take long to see that Wesley had imprinted himself on Illyria, since he was the first human she interacted with after her "rebirth". She couldn't help but look to him as somewhat of a father figure, which just about literally killed Wesley as he tried to deal with his grief over the loss of Fred. In another one of life's horrible practical jokes, Illyria represented the death of everything he loved about life while simultaneously representing an opportunity for his greatest triumph.

I can't even say Wesley reluctantly took on the role of her Watcher (in my sense of the word) even though he tried to kill her several times in the beginning. Wes didn't have a choice - being a Watcher was what he did and and gave him purpose and meaning in life. Although I wrote above that he took pity on Illyria, he didn't act in a pitying manner towards her. Wesley had a unique ability to adapt his modus operandi to each girl and to each situation. He was incredibly harsh towards Bethany the psycho telekinesis girl in Season 2's "Untouched", to Justine his Season 4 slave girl, and, in a manner of speaking, towards Lilah. In contrast, he was quite loving and supportive with Cordelia, Virginia and Fred. In each case, he acted entirely appropriately.

Wesley had to be careful with Illyria since she could have struck out and killed him at any moment. He was respectful and deferential, but also firm and resolute. At times Wes seemed to challenge her a bit in order to encourage her to give voice to and confront her own feelings of frustration and confusion. Illyria seemed to really appreciate his efforts, leaving us all to conclude that Wesley was the absolute best person in the world for the job.

In a rare twist for Wesley, Illyria generated the lion's share of the erotic energy, but he hardly deflected it. Instead, Wes seemed to absorb the energy and turn it into something even more powerful. Illyria clearly mentioned on more than one occasion that she was willing to sleep with Wesley. Wesley rejected her each time, since he could not possibly sleep with a "lie". One could easily think that Illyria simply wanted to explore the physical side of sex, but I think it went much deeper than that. From almost the moment she took on Fred's "shell", she was bombarded with Fred's memories and emotions that remained inside her body's central nervous system. For Illyria, it would have been almost physically impossible to separate sex from her emotions.

Illyria was undeniably in love with Wesley in her own right (albeit she was highly influenced by Fred's memories). Could Wesley have ever fallen in love with Illyria? There was no indication in either Angel: the Series or After the Fall that he could have ever considered being her lover. For one thing, in his role as mentor and guide, it would have been almost unethical for him to do so. Wesley sleeping with Illyria would have been as wrong as Buffy and Giles having a fling. Wes was highly professional, and he would never allow himself to act in a way that would hurt Illyria. (Which is probably one reason why he kept Faith at arm's length.)

Everything that Wes and Illyria had worked toward could have fallen apart as soon as they started a sexual relationship. Still, she deserved to have some romantic attachment in her life. Perhaps, in a weird but still highly logical way, Wesley could have been the one to guide and comfort her when she suffered her inevitable heartaches if she ever found a partner. In a nutshell, I think the only way Wesley and Illyria could have ever become an item is if she somehow was able to move beyond Fred and become her own person.

Closing Thoughts. Each relationship Wesley had was highly unique in its own way. Even his non-romantic relationships had heavily erotic elements to them. Luckily for him, he was also able to get certain benefits from all of these relationships, though perhaps not the ones he was originally hoping for.

Quite often when we start out in life, we have a certain checklist for what we're looking for in an ideal mate. We're lucky if we can get half of the items crossed off from our lists when we finally find someone that we're willing to marry. In essence, we're hoping for permanent partners who are composites of the best qualities from our previous partners. For example, a girl might want her new partner to have her first boyfriend's looks, her second boyfriend's charm, and her third boyfriend's bank account.

Was Fred that ideal composite drawing that Wesley had sketched out in his brain? After looking at all of the qualities of the young ladies listed above, it's quite possible the answer was yes. Fred was smart, resourceful, courageous, resolute, quick-thinking, intelligent, cheerful, bubbly, nurturing, gentle, kinky (perhaps) and impossibly cute! She was someone he could watch over and guide, but she could also stand on her own two feet as an equal. I'd probably have to watch the series one more time (heaven forbid) to see if Wesley had all of Fred's required qualities, but she certainly didn't seem to make any sort of mistake by choosing him either.

For someone who was considered to be unlucky in love, Wesley certainly had an active social life. I made a crack in my last post about seeing if some sort of Profound Truth would emerge from this post, and I think I found it. Just as I suspected, Wesley's romantic life seemed to mark somewhat of a steady progression through his road to maturity. Just like in real life, Wes didn't grow at a steady pace. Like all of us, he regressed and experienced setbacks. But at the end, we could see that by the the end of the series, he was much farther along, personality-wise and with his relationships, than he was when he first arrived in Sunnydale. I choose to believe that at the end of Volume 4 of After the Fall, Wesley received his reward for a heroic life and ended up with Fred in Heaven. I guess we can't ask for much of a happier ending than that.

I used to think that Wesley didn't love Fred as much as he loved her for being the personification of the Perfect Women. I also wondered if he would become disillusioned the first time he saw her do something awkward, like snort soup out her nose when she started laughing. Now I'm beginning to think that, far from being an idee fixe like Don Quixote's Dulcinea, perhaps Wesley really did recognize her for what she was, for truly being the ideal girl in the world for him.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow! This was a truly amazing post. I really enjoyed reading it and definitely agreed with almost everything you said. A very rare thing in the buffy fanworld!

Miriam said...

Thanks for the feedback, Anon! Always nice to know that there's at least one other person who agrees with some of my crazy ideas ;-)