Sunday, May 30, 2010

Not Wesley and Faith, but Wesley and Lilah Instead

This was supposed to be a post about Wesley Wyndam-Pryce and Faith in Season 4 of Angel's, "Salvage". However, Lilah Morgan showed that she wasn't quite done with us yet, as proved by this macabre yet extremely moving "Wesley chopping off her head" scene.

I've already written quite a bit about that scene, where Wesley was working through his own feelings about his relationship with Lilah and his grief over his failure to protect her. About the only thing I'll add is that it was a clever plot device to have "Lilah" provide the dialogue about the positive aspects of their relationship, while Wesley provided the negatives and the denials. Lilah was the one who insisted that they had a bona fide relationship and seemed to be on the verge of telling Wesley that she loved him, which Wesley vehemently denied on both counts. More importantly, she let Wesley off the hook, as far as acknowledging his true feelings for her, by pointing out that deep down he was hoping he would be able to bring her redemption.

I didn't care for the "redemption" angle the first several times I saw this scene, since I thought Mutant Enemy was turning their backs on and even trivializing their past relationship. Now I realize that, as upsetting as it was that Wesley didn't seem to be mourning Lilah as a lost love, her continued positive influences seemed to snap him out of his funk and give him a renewed sense of purpose in dealing with the disastrous situations at hand, where both The Beast and Angelus were rampaging out of control.

I've written in the past of how we never knew the exact moments in which the members of Angel Investigations found out about Wesley's relationship with Lilah. I wasn't even sure that everyone was aware in this scene when Wesley volunteered to chop Lilah's head off. All I know is that the atmosphere amongst the team members had completely changed between the consecutive episodes of "Calvary" and "Salvage". The tension created by infighting and bickering was replaced with a calmer and more focused atmosphere even before Wesley cut off Lilah's head.

We know that Angelus informed Fred about what was going on between Wesley and Lilah. I've said in the past that Cordelia/Jasmine seemed to figure it out as soon as she saw the two of them walk into the Hyperion together (if she hadn't figured it out sooner). It's hard to say if and when Connor ever found out about Wes and Lilah, since he was a loose cannon who couldn't exactly be relied upon to speak delicately about such matters. He could have equally talked about "destroying" Lilah and asking "how long does it take to chop off Lilah's head" regardless of whether he actually knew about their past relationship.

Lorne was another special case in point. The only real hint we had that he knew about Wes and Lilah was the fact that he looked at the two of them kind of strangely a few times in "Calvary". We never knew the full range of Lorne's psychic abilities outside of when he read people who sang for him. However, there were a few hints sprinkled about throughout the series that he had a minor talent for reading people's auras. The creators took great pains to show that Lorne had lost his psychic abilities throughout a big chunk of Season 4. The upcoming episodes will let me know for sure, but I believe the Jasmine creature was responsible for putting some kind of whammy on him. Supposing that he actually had lost a lot of his psychic abilities, Lorne would have needed to have relied on his ordinary powers of observation and perhaps even have gossiped behind Wesley's back to find out the whole story.

Although I'm not sure if this was ever explicitly brought up in Angel:The Series, it was clearly stated in After the Fall Volume 3 that The Powers That Be shut down their communications when something dangerous happened to one of their conduits. For example, the multi-legged creature in After the Fall who was giving out information from The Powers That Be to (presumably) paying customers stopped receiving his visions when he was captured by vampires. It only makes sense that Cordelia would have stopped receiving her visions when she was taken over by Jasmine.

I discussed in a prior post that Lorne was never specifically linked to The Powers That Be. However, he certainly seemed sympathetic to them and even did everything he could to help carry out their wishes. The fact that he lost his psychic abilities while Jasmine was on the loose provides one more piece of circumstantial evidence that perhaps Lorne really did have somewhat of a direct line to The Powers That Be when things were going well. (And by extension, perhaps The Powers That Be were the ones who took away his psychic abilities when Jasmine entered the scene) That's just one more thing I'll be on the lookout for in upcoming episodes.

Charles Gunn's change in attitude was the most striking, making me think that we were cheated out of a wonderfully satisfying dramatic scene in which he first found out about Wesley and Lilah. The fact that Gunn apparently wasn't upset by the news is perhaps worthy of yet another Never To Be Written post in itself. Similar to what happened to Wesley, Lilah's death seemed to act as a catalyst for Charles to bury the hatchet with Wes and get on with finding solutions. In an extremely revealing piece of dialogue, Charles told Connor (who was not thrilled with the idea of taking orders from Wesley), "Boss or no boss, he's right when he says we stay together 'til we know what we have to do." Gunn would have never said those words in "Calvary" when he was still angry at Wes for trying to steal Fred away from him.

One also can't ignore the fact that since Fred did not take up with Wesley after she and Gunn broke up might have had a positive impact on Gunn's attitudes. To take it a step further, since neither Wesley, Fred or Gunn were currently in a relationship, and, more importantly, none of them looked like they'd be entering into any relationships in the near future, they could put their raging hormones aside and get back to work. Regardless, although we didn't see any "aha" moment where Gunn picked up on the Wes/Lilah story, there's plenty of room to interpret that he was being sensitive to Wesley's feelings of grief in the early part of "Salvage". The creators finally gave us a satisfying little moment between Gunn and Wesley in this scene from "Home" where Gunn, although not coming right out with the words, seemed to be implying that he was sorry for Wesley's loss.

Getting back to Lilah, it might be overstating things a bit to say that everyone in Angel Investigations was mourning her loss. However, she was accepted inside the Hyperion Hotel in a curious sort of way, and her death provided a definite wakeup call for everyone to pull together and get serious about defeating The Beast and Angelus. It was this renewed sense of purpose that allowed Wesley to follow through on his clarion call of "redemption" and spring Faith out of jail so she could help complete the mission of finding Angel's soul and putting it back into Angelus.

Closing Thoughts. To push the obvious a little more, "Salvage" provided yet one more example of just how much of the overall plot I can miss if I simply view one episode in isolation. I've seen "Salvage" many times since it has the twin virtues of having my favorite Wes and Lilah scene and some kick-ass action sequences with Wes and Faith. Although Lilah seemed to suffer a senseless death, I found, while I reviewed this episode within the context of the entire season, that she did seem to provide the inspiration for several people to continue on with their quest to defeat The Beast and bring back Angel.

I couldn't help but notice that as soon as I posted that Lorne was more in the forefront in Season 4 than I actually remembered, he started receding into the background, roughly starting with "Long Day's Journey". Although actor Andy Hallett continued to be prominently featured in at least one scene per episode, I can't help but think that the writers weren't quite sure what to do with Lorne once he lost his psychic abilities.

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