Monday, April 11, 2011

More on Soul Purpose

Alexis Denisof and J. August Richards as Crockett and Tubbs
(From Screencap Paradise)

As I hinted at the end of my last post, I'm not quite finished with "Soul Purpose" from Season 5 of Angel. Here's a few more random thoughts about the episode.

Spike, Wesley and Gunn. I love this scene on so many levels, where Wesley Wyndam-Pryce and Charles Gunn confronted Spike about his new career path as an independent crime fighter. Wes and Gunn were, of course, nervous that Spike was spinning around like a loose cannon and were perhaps trying to get him back into the fold. More importantly, they were trying to figure out what motivated Spike and what kind of secret agenda he might have been working on.

Although Spike's constant moralizing with Angel throughout Season 5 got on my nerves pretty quickly, he wasn't nearly as irritating with Wes and Gunn, beginning with his hilarious "Well, look who's come to call— Crockett and Tubbs". Spike also correctly pointed out a few things about Wolfram & Hart a little bit later on: "Look...I told Angel, and I'll tell you. A place like that doesn't change... not from the inside. Not from the out. You sign on there, it changes you. Puts things in your head. Spins your compass needle around till you can't cross the street without tripping the proverbial old lady and stepping on her glasses. And it's not like I wasn't there, gents, like I wasn't watching you. Had to haunt the damn place. Remember? "

Spike, as usual, hit the nail on the head while simultaneously missing the bigger picture. He correctly guessed that Wes and Gunn were operating behind Angel's back and were perhaps "hedging their bets". Spike then finished off with a salient "And the compass needle keeps spinning. And the world gets murkier and murkier." Unfortunately, Spike's wise insights were tempered by the fact that this particular conversation would have never taken place if he knew what his handler, Lindsey McDonald, was up to.

I enjoyed watching Wes and Gunn flex their new-found corporate muscles. I've observed this scene being played out many times in real life, where young men in their brand new suits try to intimidate people with the full weight of the Big Bad Corporation behind them, only to be forced into a humiliating defeat when their opponents refuse to roll over and play dead. Similar to how Fred was put in the uncomfortable position of playing the corporate heavy when she had to fetch werewolf Nina to Wolfram & Hart in "Unleashed", Wesley and Gunn seemed just as uneasy trying to represent the interests of their own Big Bad Corporation in "Soul Purpose".

As an aside, actor/director David Boreanaz informed us in the DVD commentary for this episode that he was unsatisfied with how this particular scene turned out. He was particularly unhappy with the lack of movement and animation from actors Alexis Denisof and J. August Richards (Wesley and Gunn). Boreanaz was not so much criticizing the actors as much as he was blaming himself for not putting more effort into directing the scene. I actually did notice the stilted dialogue and wooden acting, but I also thought the characters' demeanor played up to the fact that Wolfram & Hart was slowly hollowing out their hearts and souls. Indeed, the contrast between Spike's more relaxed style and Wes and Gunn's uptight behavior was quite effective.

The Sellout. The scene that took place at Spike's apartment was not complete until Fred helped Wes and Gunn tie up the loose threads back at Wolfram & Hart. In one of my favorite dialogue sequences of the entire series, the two guys explained to Fred that Spike felt that they had "sold out".
FRED: We didn't sell out. We're changing the system from the inside.

GUNN: You know, when you say it out loud, it sounds really naive.
I've always defended Team Angel's decision to take over the Los Angeles office of Wolfram & Hart on the basis that they were physically, mentally and morally exhausted at the end of Season 4. Although they knew better than to trust Wolfram & Hart, they used the opportunity to regroup in their new plush offices while planning their next moves. However, I'm only now starting to think through the implication that Angel was the only member of the group who was able to remain (relatively) clear-headed throughout the entire ordeal, possibly because he was the only one who was unaffected by the Connor mindwipe. Although Angel appeared at times to be getting a little too comfortable in his role as CEO, in reality he was simply spinning his wheels while he tried to find a way out of the predicament.

It's also becoming a bit more clear to me that Gunn, Wesley, Fred and perhaps to a lesser extent Lorne were all starting to think that perhaps they really could make a difference while working within the belly of the beast. In the above-referenced scene at Spike's apartment, I'm convinced that Wes and Gunn sincerely felt that they were trying to do the right thing when they confronted Spike. Spike was probably correctly accusing Wes and Gunn of "hedging their bets" in their desire to bring him back to Wolfram & Hart, just in case Angel turned out to be the wrong Vampire With a Soul. Wes and Gunn also correctly denied that that was their intent, but they probably denied it only because they hadn't thought that far ahead.

Idle Thoughts. Wesley and Gunn were a good team in this part of Season 5, and I wish the creators had explored that aspect a little bit more.

Was Lindsey trying to get caught when he decided to call himself "Doyle"?

I've made a few references here and there about Spike and Wesley's relationship. Clearly there was no love lost between the two of them in "Soul Purpose".

One thing the audience was cheated out of was a good chance to see how bad-ass Dark Wesley from Season 4 would have fared against Spike in Season 5. I've maintained that the early Season 5 Wesley, whom I've incongruously named the New and Improved Wesley, was somewhat neutered after the Connor mindwipe. Spike had to wait until Fred passed away until he could see something resembling the "real" Wesley Wyndam-Pryce later on in the season.

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