Saturday, November 6, 2010

Beautiful Loser

Alexis Denisof as Wesley Wyndam-Pryce,
from Buffyverse Dialogue Database


There are some scenes in Angel where the dialogue says it all, with "Lineage" from Season 5 providing us with at least three great examples. The first instance occurred when Eve cast Wesley's reckless endangerment of Fred within the larger context of Angel's inherent mistrust of Wesley. The second instance occurred when Angel confessed to Wes that he was just starting to understand that Wesley was the one who made all of the hard decisions. The third instance occurred in this less wordy (but still effective) scene where Fred and Wesley were talking about how he killed his "father" in order to save her life.

I've tried to gloss over these scenes in previous posts, mostly because deconstructing the dialogue seemed like overkill. However, I know I'll have this nagging feeling of unfinished business hanging over my head until I get this done, so, here I go.

Angel and Eve and Wesley. I've discussed in the past how Eve is not one of my favorite characters in Angel. Sarah Thompson seemed to be miscast, and it's hard for me to separate the character from the actress when I watch the performances. What irritated me the most was how Eve would clumsily explain the obvious, apparently for the benefit of the more ignorant members of the viewing audience. Paradoxically, some of my favorite dialogue sequences in the entire series involved Eve, with this scene in the Season 5 premiere episode "Conviction" being a good example (particularly the part about evil going "next door".)

I felt that Angel was overreacting a bit in this scene when he chewed out Wesley for putting Fred's life in danger. There were obviously other issues involved besides Wesley's momentary lapse in judgment. Luckily for me, I achieved an almost immediate catharsis when Eve strode into the office and declared, "Kinda hard on him, weren't you?" She then pointed out, "I think you're making too big a deal about this. And from what I understand, her wound wasn't all that severe." That was definitely a true statement, since I can't watch Angel's and Wesley's reactions to Fred's wound without thinking of a short but hilarious scene in I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, where hero Jack Spade (Keenan Ivory Wayan) similarly overreacted to a minor papercut (click on the "'Film" button) that he received under urban battlefield conditions.

Eve also nailed it when she continued on that Angel might have also been irritated with Wesley because he "Focuses too much on the big picture? Overlooks the people involved?" and for being "Willing to risk anything... or anyone... for the greater good."

Similar to how I described Buffy and Faith in a much earlier post this year, Angel and Wesley had an interesting yin/yang thing going on, where their seemingly contradictory styles and philosophies actually complemented each other. This was the opposite of Angel's relationships with Spike and Gunn, where these similar alpha males regularly butted heads in their quests to become top dogs. Angel was Numero Uno by just about everyone's standards. Wes was never going to be the hero of epic proportions, and, for the most part, he actually appeared to accept his first lieutenant status throughout Season 5.

Although the lyrics don't come close to accurately describing Wes and Angel's relationship, I can't help but think of Bob Seger's song, "Beautiful Loser", particularly this verse,
He's your oldest and your best friend
If you need him, he'll be there again
He's always willing to be second-best
A perfect lodger, a perfect guest
As Angel hinted in this scene with Wesley later on, he never really understood Wesley's better qualities, probably because he never took Wesley all that seriously. His exact words were.
"You do what you have to do to protect the people around you. To do what you know is right, regardless of the cost. You know, I never really understood that. You're the guy who makes all the hard decisions, even if you have to make 'em alone."
He could have also continued on that rather than accepting Wesley as an equal, Angel historically considered Wesley to be more of an irritant, or the guy who got in the way of Angel's more emotional, full-speed-ahead approach to problem-solving.

I always thought that the Angel/Wesley relationship should have been explored quite a bit more in the series, and we're fortunate that someone at Mutant Enemy made the decision to include this above-referenced scene in "Lineage". Although their relationship became seriously strained at times later in the season (particularly when Wesley was briefly convinced that Angel was responsible for Fred's death), the steady and solid foundation of their friendship was enough to keep them going through even the worst of times. Perhaps working through the adversities of late Season 3's unfortunate events, where Wesley kidnapped Connor and Angel tried to kill Wes, eventually brought the two of them closer together as a result.

Fred and Wesley (Mostly Idle Thoughts). Regular readers are probably tired of hearing me talk ad nauseum about how I never found Fred and Wesley's relationship to be all that convincing. In other words, I never felt that they were "made for each other". Although Wesley was obviously obsessed with Fred, there were seldom any moments where I felt that Fred absolutely could not live without Wesley.

Wesley couldn't help but make a positive impression on Fred when he saved her life by killing his cyborg "father". As an aside, I can't help but notice how certain emotions can continue on for a long time after the fact. Perhaps this has something to do with stress hormones still lingering in the system? Regardless, even though Wesley realized almost right away that he actually killed a cyborg, it took him a while to get over the notion that he was fully capable of murdering his own father.

As I mentioned in my last post, Fred had this irritating quality of seeing the best in everybody: "Part of you knew. Even if you can't admit it to yourself, part of you knew it wasn't him", which forced the other party to openly admit his guilt in excrutiating detail: "No. I was sure it was him. You were there. I killed my father." I really should cut her some slack, because Fred was simply being her wonderfully nurturing self.

I've commented in the past about Wesley's generosity in gracefully giving up Fred to Knox. I would like to add that, although it seemed like a selfless act, Wesley might have been a little too wrapped up in his self-congratulations, since he totally missed out on the fact that Fred was starting to develop some feelings for him. Similar to how she just let the matter drop when Wesley pulled away from her in this closing scene from Season 3's "Billy", Fred also let the matter drop when Wesley gave her up for Knox. I'd like to think that she was letting Wes savor his little moment of moral triumph before starting in on him again, but I doubt that. Instead, I think Fred was once more being the confused little waif, perhaps feeling obligated to spend time with Knox since, after all, she did encourage his attentions for quite some time.

More Idle Thoughts
. I consider "Lineage" to be the best episode of the ill-defined "early" part of Season 5. Kudos to Drew Goddard (and to any other uncredited writers who may have had a hand in this episode) for churning out some absolutely outstanding dialogue.

The creators of the After the Fall comic continuation series did a beautiful job of exploring Wes and Angel's friendship, ending with Angel's poignant "Thank you, rogue demon hunter" as Wesley faded away for the final time.

If I was really ambitious, I'd try to do a post linking Wesley Wyndam-Pryce with Charlie Brown.

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