Thursday, April 21, 2011

Lost Opportunities

Charisma Carpenter as Cordelia Chase in "You're Welcome"


It's hard for me to watch "You're Welcome" from Season 5 of Angel without thinking of those wonderful 100th episode celebration photos like this one at Flickr. Everyone looked so innocent and happy, as though they they had no idea the WB Network would announce the cancellation of the series just a few short weeks after the episode's original air date.

"You're Welcome" made it to my list of Top 10 Favorite episodes, and I've already written about the show here and here. If I could make one major change to my prior posts, I'd give more credit to Cordelia for making sure she got "her guy" back on the right track rather than portraying her as somewhat of a scolding nag. I've written in just about all of my Season 5 posts that I thought Angel made the right decision when he decided to accept the offer to take over Wolfram & Hart. He was definitely in a position of having to choose the lesser of two evils, but it still doesn't negate the fact that, nonetheless, the choice that he made was still evil.

As I watched the episode on DVD a few days ago, I couldn't help but think of how "You're Welcome" seemed to represent lost opportunities on so many levels, both within the storyline and within the real world. I could have titled this post "The Broken Record Edition" because I'm repeating myself so much, but I suppose there's something to be said about putting everything in one spot.

Angel and Cordelia, and David and Charisma. Let's get the obvious lost opportunity out of the way first, which was the aborted romance between Angel and Cordelia. This scene heartbreakingly showed us how the two of them wondered about how their lives might have changed if they had met that one night at the beach in the Season 3 finale "Tomorrow". In DVD commentaries, Joss Whedon, David Fury and probably some others have consistently asserted that many (most?) fans were NOT thrilled with the idea of an Angel/Cordelia romance. About all I can say is that actors David Boreanaz and Charisma Carpenter certainly made the most out of a "bad idea". In one of those weird blurrings of alternate realities, it seemed as though almost everyone in both the real and fantasy worlds were against them as a couple except for Angel and Cordelia themselves. The fact that Angel and Cordelia kept their dreams alive against all odds, with David Boreanaz and Charisma Carpenter once again blowing everyone away in their reunion scenes, speaks louder than anything.

Wes and Cordy. This has been a favorite topic of mine throughout the entire run of this blog. I think what fascinates me the most about Wes and Cordy is that their relationship almost totally defies description. You can't put what they had into any easy categories. David Fury himself said something to the effect that they had been an "item" in Sunnydale and their relationship had evolved into a wonderful friendship. Fury's description came close, but not close enough. Wes and Cordy certainly weren't an "item" in the conventional sense unless you consider having a single dance at the Graduation Ball and suffering through a disastrous kiss to be the key ingredients to becoming an "item".

I've also spoken at great length how throughout most of Seasons 1 -3 of Angel, Cordy seemed to take Wesley for granted while he seemed content to be her adoring lapdog. We really didn't have much of an inkling of how much affection Cordelia felt for Wesley until we saw their warm, enthusiastic embrace in her hospital room. (The contrast between their happy reunion and the more tentative one between Cordy and Angel was quite effective.) The scene in Wesley's office cemented their friendship, where they fondly reminisced about old times and had a heart-to-heart about her days when she had been hijacked by a higher being.

I've noticed this in previous episodes as well, but particularly in Wesley's office they were physically quite close together at times and enjoyed a wonderfully easy intimacy. It wouldn't be too hard to imagine that, off-screen, Wes and Cordy would have eventually given each other shoulder rubs and fallen asleep together on the couch while watching a movie. The fact that this next step in their friendship was cut short was particularly poignant for me.

Cordelia and Everyone Else. "You're Welcome" also highlighted how much the series missed Charisma Carpenter. It's amazing how Charisma could portray Cordelia as a fish out of water within the offices of Wolfram & Hart while simultaneously proving to everyone that Cordelia owned the place. Cordelia/Charisma stepped in and absolutely took charge of every scene. Although I know that she was the definite star of this particular episode, I don't think there's any doubt in anyone's mine that Cordelia could have continued her domination throughout the remaining run of the series.

Oh, how we were cheated out of a lot more wickedly delicious dialogue between Cordelia and everyone else! Spike took over Cordelia's spot as the blunt-to-a-fault truthsayer, but he certainly deserved to be brought down a peg or two by her. Cordelia could have dusted the floor with Eve while simultaneously putting Lindsey McDonald in his place. And let's not forget some of the issues Cordelia and Harmony needed to iron out!

Buffy. It's well-known that it was hoped that Sarah Michelle Gellar would appear as Buffy in this episode. She was unavailable, Charisma Carpenter was brought in, and the rest was history.

Bringing back Cordelia for one final performance was entirely appropriate since she was such an integral part of Angel: the Series. If Doyle's memory was going to be honored, then Cordelia had better be honored as well. Also it helped solidify the notion that Angel deserved to stand on its own feet as an entirely different series than Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Overall I'm deliriously happy with how things worked out.

It wasn't until I saw this scene early last year out of Buffy's "Lovers Walk" that I realized it was a true pity that, as far as I know, this was the only fight scene that had Angel, Spike and Buffy all fighting on the same side. The three of them would have perfect together in this zombie sentinels scene from "You're Welcome". It certainly was a worthy goal to try to fit Sarah Michelle Gellar somewhere into Season 5 of Angel, but it unfortunately didn't work out.

Based on the DVD commentary for Season 5's "Destiny", I'm under the impression that Joss Whedon himself was the most gung-ho about bringing Gellar back and making Season 5 of Angel a little more Buffy-oriented. I'm also under the impression that some of the other Mutant Enemy staff members were instrumental in keeping the season more Angel-centric. It certainly would have made sense for Joss to want to bring Buffy back, since BtVS was his baby and a considerable percentage of the viewing audience were ardent Buffy fans. Although it might have been quite entertaining to have Buffy show up in person in one or two episodes, her appearances could have also backfired and perhaps even cheapened the overall tone of what turned out to be the final season of Angel.

Spike. Christian Kane mentioned in the commentary that he and James Marsters thought that Lindsey and Spike would appear in a big fight scene in "You're Welcome". He went on to say that both actors were actually looking forward to it! Of course, Lindsey and Angel were the two who fought it out, which was the correct decision since it fit in better with the immediate story line. Kane went on to say that Spike was cheated out of his own showdown with Lindsey, which Spike certainly deserved after finding out he'd been played.

As another aside, I would have liked to have seen Spike fighting a lot more in the zombie sentinel scene, which seemed to be the story of his life. Spike needed to be seen a lot more in both Buffy and Angel.

Lindsey and Eve. It was a bit disappointing that actors Christian Kane and Sarah Thompson provided additional DVD commentary. If it was up to me I would have just let writer David Fury do it all on his own. Lindsey and Eve were important characters in their own right and, technically. the two actors deserved a little bit of the spotlight. Unfortunately, I wasn't all that interested in what they had to say. I never cared for the character of Eve, and I could never quite figure out why it was so important for Lindsey to return to Angel in Season 5. Perhaps if I had received a little more insight from the commentary I'd feel differently about the whole thing.

Christian Kane did touch on how we never really learned too much about the journey that Lindsey took to get back to Wolfram & Hart. We vaguely know that he toughened himself up, did a lot of studying and learned a lot of magic, but that was about it. Perhaps if we knew more about the actual journey we might have had a better idea about his ultimate plans. I could never quite buy the notion that it was all about revenge against Angel. If it was strictly revenge, he could have gotten over things a lot quicker if he'd have just urinated in Angel's soup in a restaurant somewhere.

This scene on the balcony provided us with one of the clearest explanations of what Lindsey had in mind. He apparently resented the fact that Angel was Top Dog at Wolfram & Hart, and felt it was time to take on the Senior Partners. I knew that Lindsey wanted to impress the Senior Partners with his sheer moxy for trying to take over Wolfram & Hart by brute force, but that never made sense to me. Lindsey had to know that the Senior Partners had definite plans for Angel, and they weren't going to let anything get in their way. Eve correctly pointed out that "You know the house always wins".

The After the Fall continuation series clued us in that the Senior Partners had manipulated Angel, presumably throughout Season 5, into starting the Apocalypse. Perhaps the Senior Partners manipulated Lindsey as well? Regardless of whether Lindsey's runic tattoos kept him hidden from the Senior Partners, the trouble he caused certainly played into the their hands. (If memory serves me, I believe After the Fall hinted that Lindsey wasn't in any way being rewarded by the Partners in his after-life.)

Or, perhaps I perfectly understand Lindsey's motivations after all. Maybe he really was a pathetic half-wit just like Angel said!

More Lindsey and Eve. Eve also correctly pointed out to Lindsey that "It all comes back to Angel, doesn't it? He's still the center of your universe." A lot of times I think people carry on a little too much about the supposed homosexual obsessions between Angel and Lindsey. However, I will grant that it's tough to ignore that Lindsey's single-minded obsession with destroying Angel sounds an awful lot like Spike's similiar obsession with Buffy. I'll write a little bit more about this in another post.

At one time I wondered, was Lindsey just using Eve? It would certainly make sense if a young, good-looking evil man seduced the Senior Partners' liaison with Angel! However, all indications are that Lindsey was as equally in love with Eve as she was with him. I'm also under the impression that Eve worked herself into the liaison position in order to help out Lindsey, but I admit I haven't been paying too much attention to that part. Despite my lack of enthusiasm about the whole Eve/Lindsey relationship, I do admire how devoted they were to each other and how they stayed with each other to the bitter end.

Wesley and Fred. I always thought it was very clever to include this little scene where Wesley turned into a superhero in front of Fred's eyes as he read the magic incantation that destroyed Lindsey's mystical tattoos, thereby exposing Lindsey to the full wrath of the Senior Partners. Of course this helped set up their burgeoning love affair in "Smile Time" right before she was destroyed forever in the very next episode, "A Hole in the World". However, writer/director David Fury explained in the DVD commentary that this particular scene was filmed at a later date as an afterthought, for the very reason that I described above. Although the long-lasting "will they or won't they?" relationship between Wesley and Fred seemed to really resonate with fans, I always thought that Mutant Enemy failed to give the subject matter the attention it deserved. It's only fitting that one of the few key moments in their brief relationships almost never happened.

Idle Thoughts. Charisma Carpenter is breathtakingly beautiful. I thought she looked the loveliest in "You're Welcome" since her Buffy days. Also, I thought Charisma looked more like Charisma than Cordelia, if that makes any sense.

Sometimes I can vividly remember certain scenes in Angel but have a hard time associating them with specific episodes. The opening scene with the slaughtered nuns in "You're Welcome" is one of those instances.

It is so typical and true-to-life for people not to bring a change of clothes with them when they pick up a patient from the hospital. I've had to make a few long round trips when I either didn't think of bringing clothes or I forgot a key article of clothing, like shoes or underwear.

I was delighted to see actor T.J. Thyne pop up again, this time as the lawyer who caught the Archduke Sebassis' slave drinking copier toner fluid.

I listened to an excellent podcast interview with Tim Minear over at The Investigating Angel site. (Hat tip Whedonesque.) The entire interview is worth its own blog post. However, it does seem appropriate to bring up what he had to say about Glenn Quinn's Doyle character from Season 1. Minear confirmed that Doyle was killed off not only because Joss Whedon wanted to keep the audience on their toes, but because actor Quinn's addiction was affecting his work on the set. It was hoped that Quinn would receive a wake-up call after he was fired, but he unfortunately passed away from his "disease" a few years later. "You're Welcome" paid homage to the very beginning of the Angel series in many ways, but none more poignantly than by honoring the character of Doyle.

I haven't put the time into this that I should have, but there are some lovely video and written interviews with Charisma Carpenter out there where she said that she refused to come back to Angel just to get killed off. When Carpenter found out too late that she was going to get killed off, she was extremely upset until she read the script. She now believes her final scene with Angel is one of the best scenes she ever filmed. (This interview hints at this.) If I ever run across any of these interviews I'll add the links in this post.

This was another one of my posts where I ran afoul of Blogspot's 200-character limit on tags. Victims this time around include After the Fall, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, David Fury, Joss Whedon and Tim Minear.

This episode truly marks the extreme ending to Wesley and Lilah's relationship. I'll be writing more about this in one of my next posts.

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