Friday, September 28, 2012

The Wesley/Fred Relationship in "Angel" (And Why I'm Not Complaining)

The Wesley/Fred ship in the show Angel is one of my favorite pairings of all time and yet I have had absolutely no desire to write a single piece of fanfiction about it. Now, I know that there are plenty of people who do not have a "fanfic impulse" when they like a couple on a show i.e. that feeling that you cannot be satisfied with how a couple is portrayed on a show until you have written down your own little story about what you think needs to be in the original canon. There are plenty of people who just watch the show and hope the couple gets together and are sad if it doesn't work out and, while there may be a bit of ranting, that's the end of that.

I'm not one of these people.

I have the "fanfic impulse." I want to write about characters who I think need a relationship but don't have suitable candidates in canon. I want to write about characters who I think need to be with another character in their medium and I must write it into theoretical existence. I want to include scenes in the canon that support my ship. I want to write stories that extend past the original plot to expand their relationship.

However, and this is important, I do not want to change the original plot to facilitate my desires. As someone who writes and enjoys writing myself, I would be amused by what someone else would do with my characters and I would be okay with them doing whatever they wanted but I would always stand by the fact that what I wrote was written purposefully and argue that nothing needs to be "fixed". I think this is why I hate the name of fanfiction that brings a character back to life: "death fix". It is not a fix. It is an alternative. Similarly, I only really write fanfiction of things that I already love the writing of and I personally have never wanted to change the original author's plot but to merely have my fanfiction fall into the folds of their original.

That being said, about one of my other all time favorite pairings, Roy and Riza in the book/show Fullmetal Alchemist, I have written at least five fanfics of varying lengths and dozens more in my head. Most fall into different blank areas in the plot of the original story and one is a continuation many years after the end of the story. This is how I cope with how their blatantly obvious feelings for each other are expressed in the book. I write to fill in what I feel could be (but not necessarily should be) in the story proper.

So if I'm such a Wesley/Fred shipper, why have I never wanted to write fanfiction about them?

There are some rare mediums that I encounter where the original handling of the pairing is something that I am so accepting of that I don't really believe fanfiction is necessary. The Hunger Games happens to be a story like this for me. I ship Katniss and Peeta but I don't want to write about it or read fanfics of it. This isn't one of my favorite ships ever like the other two I mentioned but I am so very okay with how Suzanne Collins writes their relationship and the blank spaces in it, that I feel no need to fill them or see them filled.

This is how I feel about the Wes/Fred ship. Nothing needs to be filled. I have tried reading fanfics but nothing ever really expanded my appreciation of the ship because the way it is already works perfectly for what it is trying to accomplish. That goal mostly is developing character (prominently Wesley's but Fred's too).

So, let me talk about relationship and character development and the essence of good writing.

In case it wasn't obvious, this is an entry of spoilers. Also, it shall be lengthy.


Part One: Buffy The Vampire Slayer


When Wesley is first introduced on Buffy he is clearly meant to be a foil of Giles. He is stuck up, stiff, follows the rules as strictly as possible, and lacks all the warmth and social skills that Giles has. For all the times Buffy picks on Giles for being so strict and "by the book", he is really easy going in comparison to Wesley. There's also the fact that while we know Giles to have been a wild hooligan in his younger days who has clearly managed to attain his current position through a lot of hard work and building up a new reputation, Wesley brags frequently about his grades and former Head Boy position and has pretty much managed this assignment through not having a life when at the academy and kissing ass. Just his overly professional appearance screams this before he even speaks: tailored dark suits, lame glasses, and a 50s-ish haircut.

So how does this affect Wesley's relationships?

Enter Cordelia. Cordelia isn't so much a person to Wesley as she is an idea. Cordelia is a stand-in for the girl he couldn't get in high school. Hell, she might literally be a stand-in for an actual girl who might have looked like her or something (Angel's thing for badass blondes is commented on but has anyone noticed that Wesley always goes for brunettes? I guess Virginia was more auburn). The point is, it is only at this point in his life where he is in a position of power that comes with the false confidence to finally approach the girl that he was too awkward/dorky to go after before. The fact that she is actually in high school is more of a coincidence than anything because when Wesley meets her, he thinks she is a teacher which is clearly a clever lampshade by the writers since no one in their right mind would think Charisma Carpenter is in high school. This also kind of makes me wonder how old Wesley is supposed to be since they never really give an exact figure. Alexis Denisof was around 33 at the time. I think I always figured Wesley was in his late twenties because that would make the age difference believable but less icky (don't ever try to understand the ages of the characters on Angel; it is quite impossible).

Of course, the superficiality is not one-sided. Cordelia is only interested in Wes because . . . I don't know. The accent? The older man thing? Pretty much that. And if either of them stopped for a minute to think about how ridiculously incompatible they are, we might not have had to deal with the most awkward, passionless kiss ever. They actually have a better kiss when they see either other in Angel and Cordelia is going around kissing everyone to try to get rid of her seer power. She doesn't even realize who he is when she does it.

Truthfully, if Wes had actually been aware of what kind of girl he would really be compatible with, he should have been into Willow. Think about it. Also, be amused by how Alexis Denisof and Alyson Hannigan are married in real life (they're so cute it's annoying).


Part Two: Angel, Season One

When we are first introduced to Wesley in Angel he has managed to become more pathetic but more sympathetic than he was on Buffy. Having been fired by the Watcher's Council, he has been stripped of most of his former fake confidence but has finally acquired some real demon fighting experience. Without the title and support, his motivation for being, say it with me, "Wesley Wyndam-Pryce: ROGUE DEMON HUNTER", is pretty much just that he has nothing else he could really do. He probably decided that being poor, alone, and unrecognized in L.A. was better than going back to England and having to face the shame and abuse he would get there. So somehow he manages to be more effective and yet, he is gaining nothing from it. It's both noble and sad. This is Wesley when he doesn't have support. He is pathetic and awkward but he is actually taking things into his own hands and thereby, much less annoying and not at all pompous. His inferiority complex that was clearly underlying in Buffy is now on the surface. It is also given more of a source in episode 1.14 "I've Got You Under My Skin" as the abuse from his father is first mentioned, albeit not explored.

I don't think a single girl passes his radar in this season and it's not surprising why. In 1.12 "Expecting" and 1.13 "She" he makes attempts to talk to women, one time friends of Cordelia's and the other time at a party, and he is utterly incapable of not driving them away. He has the nerve to try but he is just too awkward and says all the wrong things. The first time he doesn't even realize they are kind of hitting on him and Angel and he accidentally makes it look like they are a couple (see image to the right).

Towards the end of the season, he gets better about talking to people (and dressing better; the light colored suits he wears throughout this season are tragic) but no opportunities come up.


Part Three: Angel, Season Two

To me this was really when the writing dropped the ball in terms of talking about Wesley's love life but they thankfully do fine for the rest of the show once this season is over.

Apparently someone decided that he needed to get some action but very little thought or planning was actually put into how they could feasibly make this happen. Why Wesley? Well, Cordelia had a demon pregnancy from her last boyfriend in season one and she meets Groosalugg towards the end of this season, Angel spends most of the season in his weird thing with Darla, and Gunn spends all his time prior to his feelings for Fred being in the Katniss mentality: "Survival is more important than anything. Relationships complicate things."

Now let me say a word on one night stands in Buffyverse. Buffy and Angel are two shows that I always felt accurately portrayed the amount of sexual partners normal people have where there are so many shows that exaggerate it or underplay it as a character flaw. These shows also acknowledge that everyone is not capable of casual sex and none of them seem to have casual sex with a stranger aside from Faith who has a whole tool shed of problems. The fact is, most of the characters are monogamists and even when characters have fuck buddies (i.e. Buffy/Spike and Wesley/Lilah) it ends up turning into a relationship anyway. There were six one night stands I could think of and only one is not filled with regret (Gunn/Gwen, which is really just the most altruistic sex ever and I was hoping it would turn into a thing).

This is why I find it insanely odd and unnecessary that there is a scene in 2.5 "Dear Boy" where Angel is saying that he can smell things on people and he notes that yesterday Wesley had sex with a bleach blonde. Cordelia's surprise speaks for the audience.

I'm sure the only logic that went into this scene was that it would be funny because it kind of doesn't make sense for the character. If I compare Wesley to Faith for a moment, they are both pretty damaged people but Faith is sleeping around pretty much because she needs validation and wants release but isn't really capable of normal relationships. Wesley, from what we can see later on, is completely capable of relationships and, when it comes to women he really likes, is generally unsure how to go about things. These facts make this come off as a forced little side note and completely out of character.

The next episode 2.6 "Guise Will Be Guise" throws another curve ball but this one is handled ever so slightly better. I like to believe that whoever wrote the line from the previous episode inspired another writer to come in and try to do damage control. You can't fix what was said unfortunately, but you can put forth the same idea in a more character-appropriate way. In this episode Wesley pretends to be Angel and is assigned to watch over the daughter of a rich magic dealer. The daughter, Virgina Bryce, and Wesley end up really hitting it off. Wesley has false confidence from pretending to be Angel and Virginia is lonely and goes after people who work for her dad. Them getting together was really just a matter of the right situation. Maybe they bonded over having awful fathers? In spite of my doubts here, truthfully this is all phenomenally more sensible than whatever that was in the previous episode.


And again, another writer acknowledged that while what happened here at least made sense, they acknowledged the fact that Wesley still isn't a one night stand person. Thus, Virginia is his girlfriend for a couple months "show time." The reason I say that this was another new decision and that 2.6 wasn't just the planned start of their relationship is because the relationship is written so unusually poorly. Virgina is briefly mentioned at the beginning of 2.7 "Darla " and in 2.12 "Blood Money" and makes exactly three appearances that last less than three minutes apiece: in 2.11 "Redefinition" to sit on Wesley's couch and talk about how he was fired, in 2.13 "Happy Anniversary" to visit the gang's new office and give them a job, and in 2.15 "Reprise" to essentially tell Wesley that she can't handle seeing the danger he's in and breaks up with him. She has very little personality outside of being rich and somewhat upbeat (think a less shallow version of Buffy!Cordelia) and the relationship really has no importance in plot or character except perhaps to fix a writing mistake or to give Wesley a small reason to not be miserable. If I were to attempt to find some more significant purpose in it, perhaps it could be to give Wesley a real relationship so that we can believe that he is ready for a serious one when Fred comes along. Wesley and Virginia's relationship is actually similar in nature to the relationship between Gunn and Fred. They care about each other and like being around each other but it is no great love story (except Gunn and Fred were actually in love).

Also, Bryce and Pryce. It never could have worked out.


And now we reach the point when everything changes! Enter Fred.

To say I started shipping Wesley and Fred right away might actually be an understatement. To quote my friend Caroline's explanation of how I felt, "So Fred came on the screen and you thought, 'this one is for Wesley'?" When she first appeared I thought she should be with Wesley. When she went into her cave with all the equations on the wall, I thought she could be his soulmate. Note that this is a few episodes before they even meet for the first time and their first meeting is rather unremarkable since only in Shakespeare plays and musicals do people really fall in love at first sight. Wesley thinks Fred is kind of off her rocker (and she is) and Fred doesn't seem to have much of a reaction outside of "friends of the handsome man who saved me from the monsters must be good people." And in spite of this, I got the impression that the show writers had always planned for the idea that Wesley and Fred were supposed to be together from the creation of Fred's character. This is sharply contrasted to how the Wesley/Virginia relationship felt entirely spontaneous and sloppily thrown together for the sake of character continuity.


Part Four: Angel, Season Three


Since the later episodes of season one Wesley's personality has reminded fairly consistent. He isn't really the tripping fool he was, still kind of awkward but nothing like before, and he has found a place he feels comfortable and useful. In season three, this gets even better with him actually having the role of boss of Angel Investigations; he has finally managed to have genuine confidence in a seat of power while still acknowledging his fallibility. This confidence doesn't really extend to women Fred though, what with Fred initially being so timid, more timid than him at that, it makes sense that he would have no idea how to approach the situation.

From the beginning of the season, the spurts of a Wes/Fred/Gunn love triangle are present but very subtle, at least partially because Fred has no idea that it's happening. In the beginning episodes of the season, Fred has a hero worship crush on Angel so there's no reason why she would notice Gunn or Wesley in that way. In the first episode 3.1 "Heartthrob", Wesley is already talking about what a great person he thinks she is but things really start to get interesting in 3.3 "That Old Gang Of Mine." When Gunn walks into Caritas and sees Fred singing, his serious expression softens and he smiles. Then throughout almost all of the hostage scene, Wesley is holding Fred or whisking her out of danger (see image to the right). Subtlety disappears in 3.5 "Fredless" when Wesley talks fondly with Fred's dad about the invention she made, clearly sad she's leaving, and then their goodbye hug is so awkward that it is clear he was over-thinking it. Everything he says after she leaves also pretty much sends a giant message to the audience that he likes her. In 3.6 "Billy", Cordelia figures it out and talks to him about it for the first time.

Gunn's feelings for Fred come out later than Wesley's, for the first time really obviously in 3.11 "Birthday" when he beams at her manner of introducing herself to Dennis. By 3.12 "Provider" both Wesley and Gunn's feelings are laid out for everyone to see except Fred who is clueless about both of them. In the beginning of the episode they both watch mesmerized as Fred holds Connor and comment on how adorable it is with Wesley stammering that he meant the baby and Gunn admitting that he meant Fred. Then later they both gush about how they feel so connected to her with Wesley's "read all the same science journals" versus Gunn's "laugh at all the same dumb jokes." These scenes ultimately show why Fred will go for Gunn over Wesley. Gunn always makes his feelings on a situation clear while Wesley tries to hide them or stumble over them. When the chrome-faced demons ask Wesley why his girlfriend was pointing at their chests (Fred was observing the math connection in the designs on their tunics), he gets cut off trying to awkwardly deny that she's his girlfriend. Also, as shown in the other scene, Gunn focuses on simple comfort while Wesley focuses on intellectual connection and one of those things Fred needs more than the other at this point.

This conflict comes to a . . . middle in 3.13 "Waiting In The Wings" when Fred chooses Gunn which makes complete and total sense if you are thinking like Fred and not from an outsider perspective as an audience member is inclined to do. Hell, in 3.14 "Couplet" even Gunn thinks it's weird that Fred chose him over Wesley.

There is one main reason why Fred picks Gunn and a couple smaller speculations on my part. The main reason I already mentioned before is quite simply because Gunn tells her he likes her. Let me elaborate. While the first . . . all of this post has been about how Wesley is a failure with women, Fred is actually probably the biggest failure of anyone. Fred cannot see a signal when it is staring her in the face nor could she really see a rejection either. Fred is very passive with relationships which will cause problems for her later and does cause problems early in this season. In the first five episodes, Fred has a crush on Angel which seems to mostly come from the fact that he saved her from Pylea and she is utterly incapable of seeing that he isn't interested. Unfortunately, Angel is also incapable of seeing these things or telling her straightforward so it's a good thing that after 3.4 "Carpe Nocturm" her opinion of him is affected by seeing him make out with Lilah even though it wasn't him doing it. She probably didn't even realize that Wesley liked her (when Angelus mentions it in the next season, Fred seems completely surprised) and even if she had a hunch, Gunn had openly admitted to his feelings in 3.13 when he tells her, "Oh, you know you're gorgeous" and calls her "an extraordinary woman."

Then there are the other, less important but still possible, reasons. Even if she was equally aware of Wesley's feelings, it would be difficult for her to pick him over Gunn because of where she is in her life. Having just gotten out of five years of torture, it would make sense that she would prefer a more easy-going and fun guy than one who is very serious and riddled with his own emotional issues. Fred also seems very inexperienced with relationships. She was only 22 or so when she got sucked into the portal and she never mentions any past relationships. A relationship with Gunn would be comfortable and light (it comes off like "high school sweethearts") while Wesley from the very beginning was pretty much on the "LET ME LOVE YOU" side of things which could be stressful to go into when you don't know exactly how you feel yet towards that person and how you feel in a romantic relationship in general. It's only when she is sure of her feelings for him that she is ready to date Wesley in season five. There's also the kind of awkward fact that Wesley is her boss during this time and that Gunn is probably closer in age to her.

The last possible thing I have in my arsenal for defending Fred's choice at this point in time, is the events that occurred in 3.6 "Billy." Although this may not have affected her consciously, it's hard to believe that it wouldn't have at least done something to her subconscious opinion of him. Wesley gets possessed by the misogynist demon, Billy Blim, while he and Fred are working with his blood and he ends up lashing out at her since she is the woman nearest to him at the time. He chases her around the hotel, which is definitely not good for her PTSD, alternating between trying to kill her and sexually harassing/assaulting her, probably because of the fact that he has feelings for her (Billy affects different people differently). Later Gunn also gets infected but by the time he does, Fred has realized the cause, is prepared, and witnesses him fluctuating between infected and normal, knocking him out before he can do anything to her aside from a threat of violence (although it's notable that it takes both Wesley and Gunn a while for the blood to fully affect them). When it's all over, Wesley beats himself up about it and locks himself away from everyone in shame and Fred visits him to insist that it's okay. Although it's true that she doesn't blame him, it's hard to believe that deep down in her mind she doesn't have some small association of Wesley with this violence and, in particular, the sexual violence. What happened with her and Angel in 3.4 seemed to paint her feelings for him in some way so it wouldn't be surprising if this event did too.

In the next episode, 3.14 "Couplet", Wesley begrudgingly accepts the situation and talks it over with Gunn saying that he just wants to know that she will be taken care of. Unfortunately, we aren't really given a chance to see whether or not their friendship is affected because the events that lead to Wesley getting ostracized from the group occur right after. Also, although Fred seemed pretty clueless about Wesley's feelings before, by 3.15 "Loyalty", Gunn has told her. However, she did seem to miss that in favor of relishing in Gunn calling her "his girl." The point is, right before the "Connor incident" everyone in the love triangle seems to be aware of the situation . . . which ultimately holds little bearing on the preceding events until maybe season 4 so keep that in the back of your brain.

The next important moment for Wesley and Fred doesn't appear until after the "Connor incident." In 3.18 "Double or Nothing" Lorne and Fred are shown to be the only ones who are even trying to be fair to Wesley (Gunn initially was diplomatic but by this point is siding with Angel). Lorne packs up Wesley's things and Fred takes them to him in the hospital where he is still unable to speak. She tells him that she understands why he did what he did but that he went about it in entirely the wrong way and that his efforts were all for nothing, warning him not to ever return to the Hyperion because Angel will kill him. Because he can't speak it's hard to tell what this meeting means to him but one can definitely speculate. Although Fred is angry with him, she is the only one who has even tried to understand his motivations and although her words are harsh, she is looking out for him. She really is a good person and the fact that she doesn't view him like everyone else is doing will lead to an important event between them in season 4. I imagine the meeting probably deepened his shame as she had pointed out what he should have done but at the same time, I think it was probably better that all of that came from her than any one else. It probably meant more to him and although I don't want to get into this too much I think the reason Wesley acted as he did instead of asking someone in the group for advice was mainly motivated by loneliness and a fear of further alienation. He probably thought no one would believe his fears, particularly Angel who could influence everyone, and was probably already feeling alone because Fred has Gunn, Cordelia has Groo, and Angel has Connor. Ironically, this leads to his total ostracism from the group and as we know from experience, Wesley feeling alone can have strange results.

In the following episode 3.19 "The Price", Fred is desperately trying to find a way to resolve things between Wesley and everyone else. Gunn shows no hope and tells her to not bothering talking to Angel about Wesley and Cordelia flat out says she is on Angel's side and that's all that matters.
 Later when Fred is infected by the water parasite, Gunn realizes that the only hope of saving her is to ask Wesley. Initially Wesley says he doesn't care until he hears that Fred is infected and helps only "because it's Fred" by giving Gunn a cure. The question is, is it because of his feelings for her or because she was the only one who cared about his side of things? I believe it is both but I think if they hadn't included the scene of her visiting him in the hospital, it might be a bit harder to justify him helping out when he has firmly decided that he never wants to see them again. Clever.

Now we enter Lilah.

In her early seasons on the show Lilah didn't have much of a distinct character. She was portrayed as ruthless, ambitious, and sometimes a bit more neurotic than her contemporaries. She was the contrast to Lindsay who was very confident but had frequent moral conundrums about his job. Lilah was never shown questioning her job and after Lindsay left, she became the top dog at the firm allowing any trace of her early neurotic behavior to be diminished and leaving her cocky and cold.

Prior to becoming a prominent fixture in Wesley life, she is given a bit more backstory in episode 3.16 "Sleep Tight." She has a mom in a clinic who appears to have Alzheminer's and whose hospital bills she pays for, showing that although she seems heartless, she can care for something other than herself. Her explanation for her "evilness" is pretty much that she chose a side and stuck with it, taking a path that would be dangerous but would reap rewards and in order to really succeed with her chosen side she had to go full force with it and be the best. She compares her own choice to Angel's decision to stay on the side of good, saying that he could have given in and become evil again but he fights to remain on the righteous side like she fights to stay where she is.

So let's do the breakdown to boning, if you will:

* 3.20 "A New World" marks Wesley and Lilah's first meeting when she offers him a job at Wolfram & Hart, trying to temp him with books and health insurance, and then when he tells her to get the hell out, she gives him a copy of Dante's Inferno and reminds him that the worst level is for those who betray and that he is not too good to work for them. Aside from marking their first meeting in this fashion I think there is something much more important to their future relationship itself in this scene. Generally Wesley and Lilah's relationship is sort of played up as being just a lot of sex but this scene shows a different side. There is some intellectual connection here and this isn't the only time we see this. It's easy to remember that Lilah is clever but you don't get much telling you that she's actually also smart. Sure, she's smart in a different way from Fred but you don't become a lawyer by sleeping through class.

* In 3.21 "Benediction" Lilah invites Wesley to a club where she has also invited Justine Cooper, the woman who slit his throat, and a bunch of vampires to kill her. She asks him if he will try to save her or just leave if he refuses to watch and when he hesitates on deciding, she says that that was all she needed to know. She wanted to test his morality and although he would not reveal in her death, the fact that he questioned saving her showed Lilah that his once firm morals have been somewhat compromised.

* Finally, in 3.22 "Tomorrow" Lilah finds Wesley in a pub and tells him that she is worried his brain is going to waste and they discuss what the meaning of Connor's existence is. Lilah presents the quandary of whether it would be better for him to kill Connor if he becomes a menace or to let Angel deal with it and ends up bringing the idea of Fred being hurt into it. This just makes him angrier with him reaching his breaking point when she brings up Justine. The scene ends with Wesley gripping her by the throat and asking if she'd like to know how it feels to get your throat slit.

And Bam!

"You know that sinking feeling you get the morning after? It arrived early."
#Things you shouldn't say after you orgasm.

From then on it's pretty much a trading of insults of which I give the trophy to Wesley particularly for when Lilah says, "I'm not one of the doe-eyed girls of Angel Investigations. Don't be thinking about me after I'm gone" to which he says, "I wasn't thinking about you when you were here." So what evidence are we given to support this turn of events? Well, Lilah says that it was Wes's anger and hatred that turned her on in the first place so, what can we conclude? Lilah was pretty much in it to screw the enemy and there actually is evidence to support this. Remember when she was ready to screw Angel when he was possessed by that old guy who hit on her? Yeah, hatred turns her on. So why did Wesley do it? Well, he says less on specifics but it's pretty clear why. Wesley is currently on a binge of self-hatred fueled by his underlying inferiority complex that initially involved TV dinners alone and drinking in pubs alone. The opportunity presented itself for him to do something destructive with someone else who he hates so he took it. It is very similar to what happens to Angel in 2.15 "Reprise" when he screws Darla.

And the state of this arrangement is left ambiguous until the next season . . .


Part Five: Angel, Season Four

Wesley hates himself, he hates the world, he hates Lilah (but likes screwing her), and yet he is still on a quest to do the right thing . . . in entirely the wrong way. Just like with Connor. This does change somewhat as the season wears on but this is what we are facing when it opens.

I should note, belatedly, that the reason this post is dominated by talking about Wesley and not Fred is because Fred is a much more static character. She doesn't really change much throughout the show after getting out of her initial crazy phase, however, this season is when she is given more dimension and likewise, so is the relationship between her and Wesley in what I consider to be one of the most important episodes in regards to their ship.

But for now, I must go back to Wes/Lilah. The funny thing about this ship is that I don't have anything really for or against it; actually I may be liking it more the more I am forced to analyze it because there really is a lot more thought in it than I originally realized. Also, during this period I like Lilah far more than I ever have before on the show (except for maybe the time she shot Billy) but I like Wesley phenomenally less (with the exception of the aforementioned episode that gives dimension to his ship with Fred). Although he isn't doing anything bad, he's actually still very much so fighting on the side of good, his attitude becomes something rather unbearable. He's pretty much angry all the time and the cockiness he has around Lilah leaves kind of a bad taste in my mouth when it was season three's "quiet awkwardness under a layer of confidence"  that I found endearing.

So right from the beginning in 4.1 "Deep Down" we are informed that Wesley and Lilah are now in a consistent fuck buddy relationship which makes sense really. Aside from the reasons they had sex the first time, there was the obvious fact that they both enjoyed it on a base level. Lilah hasn't stopped liking hate sex. Wesley hasn't stopped hating neither himself nor her. We also see that Lilah is taking advantage of the situation by trying to get information out of him about Angel to further her career (even if he won't say anything). And, in terms of their arrangement, before Lilah leaves, she kisses him and there appears to be a moment when they realize that they don't hate the affection thing either, hinting at a future conversation they have about what their situation actually is.

In this episode, there is also a slight Wesley and Fred moment that is rather painful. After Wesley saves and delivers Angel back to them, he goes to leave and Fred says, "You really don't care anymore, do you?" in response to him not telling them that he knew about what Connor had done. This is a ridiculous thing to ask after he has just saved Angel but really, this is how Wesley works now; he saves the day in his own way. Even after Angel forgives him in this episode, he still ostracizes himself from them because he feels like there is still too much distrust and anger between him (and himself) and them. This also shows a budding anger in Fred against the circumstances that will reach a breaking point soon. She also attacks Connor with a tazer in this episode when she finds out what he did to Angel. Fred is not as sweet as we once thought.

In 4.2 "Ground State" we get . . . more angry sex from Wesley and Lilah . . . while talking about stuff like Connor and Angel and criticizing the hell out of each others' goals. Also, Angel finds out about their relationship because of his crazy vampire smelling. This becomes important later.
In the Fred department, she talks about wanting to beat Connor with a mallet and has an angry breakdown at Gunn about how they are looking to her to hold things together after Wesley and Cordelia left and she can't take pretending to be positive all the time.

And 4.3 comes the Wes/Lilah phone sex scene. I'm actually getting bored with the sex here. Give me something else!

Finally 4.4. "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" gives us something else as Wesley and Lilah talk about how both Angel and Wolfram & Hart know about their situation. Wesley uses the word "relationship" and because of a bet they made regarding that word, he has to sign a dollar and give it to her as proof. Does this really change the nature of their interactions? It actually does. Wesley eavesdrops on Lilah talking to her associates and learns that she is going to kidnap Cordelia, taking the information to Angel and Co. She had actually tricked him, knowing he would try to help them, and set up a decoy to actually go after Lorne. Wesley gets mad at her for it but she points out that it was his fault for trusting her, reminding him that they will always be playing on different sides. At this point they actually do care about each other but, from Wesley's side at least, there is an expiration date on their tryst.

And now we reach the most important episode in support of the Wes/Fred ship and the one that effectively shows the end to Wes/Lilah and Fred/Gunn: 4.5 "Supersymmatry".
First, with Wesley and Lilah, Lilah comes over to Wesley's apartment with a gift that he interprets as a bribe or a set-up banking on his distrust from the last episode. It is an ancient helmet of some sort that he does appreciate but he leaves to go to Fred's lecture, leaving her article open on the table. Lilah sees the article and follows him to the lecture, clearly jealous that he has not forgotten about Fred while he is with her. Even though she was well aware of his feelings for Fred before they started hooking up, she was unprepared for how much it would affect her to know that his feelings haven't changed after they are in a relationship.
On the other side of things, for the first time in a while we are reminded of a gap between Fred and Gunn as he struggles to understand her physics article and speech, which Wesley separately read and attended with interest, but still supports her endeavors. This scene is nicely contrasted with the scene of Lilah and Wesley where they are actually relating with each other through the gift but he is effectively denying her company.

The real meat of the episode comes from Fred's decision to kill her former professor and how other people react to it. Angel and Gunn are horrified and immediately try to talk her out of it, telling her that this is something she will have to carry around with her for the rest of her life, to which she says she doesn't care and he deserves it. Angel is definitely speaking from personal experience when he is trying to talk her down, thinking about all the things he wishes he could take back. Gunn, on the other hand, seems to have hints of personal experience in his own argument but the main reasoning he seems to have has to do with Fred, or more accurately, his idea of Fred. At one point in the initial argument he says to her, "This isn't how you do things. This isn't how we do things" almost correcting himself when he first puts upon her what he thinks her way of doing things is and then broadening the idea to the organization. This pretty much turns into him telling her to rest and calm down which is really not what you should be telling someone in this state. From a writing standpoint, this outburst from Fred isn't even out of character. She has been progressively more and more angry since the start of season four and what happened to her in Pylea has always been her underlying dark point. Throughout the show whenever someone mentions a portal she pretty much shrinks and starts having a PTSD-induced fit.

Realizing that she will not be able to change either of their minds, she goes to Wesley for help who reacts quite differently, agreeing to help her plan out a fitting revenge. He does take a moment to mention the same things Angel and Gunn do about not being able to take it back once it's done but after Fred's firm response of understanding, he starts helping her. They decide that the best punishment would be to send him through a portal in return which is really quite brilliant: Fred won't have to sully her hands by killing him, the revenge is identical to the original crime, and they know he will not return and will end up dying, probably quickly, in another dimension. Wesley wants to come in and assist her but knows she needs to do this alone and respects her wishes. Gunn, however, does show up, kills the professor, and pushes him into the portal because as he says, "I'm gonna lose you."

And this, this right here, is why the Wesley/Fred ship makes so much sense. It's not the shared interests or my overwhelming support for all nerd-love or the fact that Wesley really needs somebody to love him. It's this plot. Gunn, as Fred puts it, wants her to be all, "sweetness and light" and will go to the lengths of killing a man (an indirect serial killer but still) in order to protect Fred's "soul." But that's not really what he's protecting. The fact is, Fred is capable of this murder. Hell, it's completely possible there is a lot of stuff we don't know about things she did in Pylea to survive. Gunn, however, cannot comprehend this concept. He loves Fred but he also idolizes her; she is a symbol to him as well as a person. She represents all that is good in the world that he did not have in his life before and he is terrified to let that idea go and accept that she can be angry and morally ambiguous like anyone else. Fred, while she doesn't make a symbol of Gunn as she has no real need for one, does underestimate what he is capable of, citing his gentle nature as why she loves him. For her the thing she is unable to accept as a result of this incident is the duel fact that Gunn isn't really who she thought he was and that he was unable to really accept her.

On the contrary, Wesley, who also has reasons to need a symbol of good in his life, does not idolize her. He respects the hell out of her and has since the beginning thinking of her as, "an incredible person" and he loves her, but to him she is human. The love of his life, but still human. He does not underestimate her and views her need for revenge as he would anyone's. It is true that his dark period could be influencing the fact that he jumped on board with her revenge so quickly but I still think that if this had happened in season three or something, he would have preferred to help her find an appropriate method than to try to convince her that this isn't really something she would do. He even knows when his point in the plan is over, allowing her to have her revenge that Gunn ends up robbing her of. This decision doesn't change how he views her or how he feels about her and that is why it makes sense that after this episode, Fred seems to feel a lot closer to Wesley than before.

4.6 "Spin The Bottle" shows the aftermath of the previous episode in how it relates to Fred and Gunn. A clear distance has separated them as they lay in bed, wide awake and not touching, the expiration date on their relationship now coming into view. Later on when Wesley shows up, Gunn realizes that Wesley helped her try to kill her professor and brings up the fact that he is aware of Wesley's feelings for her. Since Gunn has always been aware and Wesley's feelings have never changed, it's clear that the only reason he's bringing it up again is because he feels threatened. There's now a riff between him and Fred over a situation that had only served to prove that Wesley and Fred relate to each other better than they do. He has every right to be nervous.

4.7 "Apocalypse, Nowish" is when the aftermath is presented from Lilah and Wesley's side as Wesley comes into his apartment to find Lilah dressed like Fred and making light jokes at her expense, insisting that she doesn't care about his crush because he's in her bed. Of course, when things get more heated and he asks her to leave the glasses on, it is clear that she's crushed but too proud to admit it. From his view, this relationship is near its end while from hers, she's only now realizing how she feels about him.
Also, Fred and Gunn finally talk about what happened. Fred tells him it wasn't his choice to make, which is entirely true, and he says that he had no choice before she runs out to hide at the diner.

Fred returns to the hotel in the next episode 4.8 "Habeas Corpses". Her mind doesn't seem to have been changed about her relationship but the apocalypse made her want to make sure everyone was okay. Wesley, who has somewhat rejoined the crew to only Gunn's annoyance, also makes a reference to "everyone hating to lose no matter the circumstance" while looking at Fred; his feelings laid out to everyone. He goes home after and Lilah comes to check on him. Wesley breaks up with Lilah who obviously doesn't take it well. First she doesn't believe him, then she insists that she could wear the glasses again, and finally she chooses to just insist that he could never get back his former morality, since he justifies the break up by saying that he is choosing a side where she is the opponent, and that he doesn't have a chance with Fred, even though he says it has nothing to do with that. Wesley is right although there is something they are both neglecting. Wes was always fighting for Team Good even throughout this whole dark period of his. Sure, his moral scale became different, a bit more Machiavellian, and will occasionally lapse back into it until the end of the series but it was still a fight for what is right. In fact, sleeping with the enemy probably was the most morally questionable thing he was doing. He rid himself of Lilah because of the fact that she was the only thing holding him back from assuming his former role (although Gunn's supreme hatred of him will need to be conquered too and won't be for a while). He ends up saving her later when Wolfram & Hart gets attacked, because although he did not love her like he loved Fred, there is no doubt that he cares about her. She seems like she is going to tell him something after but bites her tongue.

Relationships are put on pause because of the apocalypse but when the Angelus arc comes up in the middle of the season all the messy relationship things that haven't been talked about are brought to the surface. Fred and Gunn forgot their issues temporarily but Angelus reminding everyone loudly of Wesley's feelings for Fred certainly helped bring that conflict about again. Wesley, correctly noting the cracks in Fred and Gunn's relationship, makes a move that Fred is not unresponsive to (see image) but that Gunn walks in on. Cue immature name-calling and the moment that caused Gunn to deck Wes in the first place, provoking a fist-fight: "Face it, Gunn. You can't give her what she needs." Why does that bother him so much? Probably because it is exactly what he has been afraid of from the beginning of their relationship, a fact that has only been emphasized by the fairly recent events of "Supersymmetry". Gunn breaks up with Fred in the next episode because he feels like she is "looking everywhere except at him" which is true but kind of neglects the reason why she does that: she no longer feels comfortable in this relationship. Fred really should have had the courage to break up with Gunn herself since the problems between them were mostly on her end. She was trying not to hurt him but did.

When Lilah shows up at the hotel, she and Wes have a moment of closure on their relationship when Lilah says, "I'm selfish that way. That's why we wouldn't have worked out" and Wes says, "There are a lot of reasons we wouldn't have worked out." Later when Wes and Fred are researching together, he tells her to tell Gunn he's sorry for what happened and she tells him about their breakup. Just as something is about to happen Lilah interrupts with, "Any progress?" *rimshot* However, it all comes crashing down when Angelus tells Fred about Wesley's relationship with Lilah that he is too stunned speechless to explain. Without knowing the facts, Fred decides that it would not be good to get involved in this complicated situation after having just broken up with Gunn. If only Wes had said, "WE BROKE UP" that would have been better than saying nothing and letting her think they are still together even if it is still complicated by virtue of the fact that it's Lilah. Why doesn't he defend himself? Shame. Wes is his own worst enemy sometimes.

Lilah dies at the end of 4.12 with Wesley volunteering to perform the task of beheading her to assure that she won't come back to life as a vampire. Before bringing the ax down on her, he hallucinates having a conversation with her in order to work out their feelings for each other (this is something he does more than once with dead girls). Dream!Lilah starts by saying that Wesley is probably happy that she's gone because it means that he is free from the shame he felt for being with her. He insists that he never would have wished death on her and she mentions that she knew he was always deep down trying to save her from her evil ways but that it would never have worked and he shouldn't blame himself for not succeeding. At one point he denies that they had a "relationship" and she brings up the dollar bill, driving home the fact that after Wesley had his trust used by her, he never could have looked at the situation the same way again. Then of course, we come to the important question: Did Lilah love him? Wesley insists that she couldn't have but the answer Wesley's conscious delivers him is, "Now we'll never know". The thing about this scene is that although this is supposed to be Wesley's conscious, everything is so spot on that this is either a testament to how well he got to know her or, and this is just my alternate theory, the ghost of Lilah is at work here. We find out in 4.22 "Home" that although she is dead, her soul lives in a sort of limbo because of her work contract and I almost like to believe that the Lilah who talks to him in the suit is actually her and not just Wesley's mind. In all honestly, if I wasn't such a Wes/Fred shipper, I probably would have shipped Wes/Lilah because although the constant sex is boring, I ultimately love how it is handed from Lilah's side.

In 4.14 "Release" Fred and Gunn have a feelings relapse in which Fred asks if they can just go back to how they were and tells him that she should have told Wes they were never going to happen. They kiss but nothing comes of it; I believe it is because they know everything can't go backwards but the feelings still linger. About the part relevant to my interests, I think she means, "Never gonna happen because I love you" not, "there is no world when this would ever have happened."

Two episodes later, Gunn ends up getting over Fred by getting under Gwen while Fred and Wesley finally talk about the Lilah thing. Fred says, "But you hated her, didn't you?" and Wes replies with, "Sometimes it's not just about holding hands" which really seems like a subtle commentary on Fred and Gunn's relationship. Although it's good everything has been finalized in some sense, Fred is still coping with her breakup (since 4.14 shows that she is taking it harder than Gunn) and Wes is still coping from Lilah's death (since obviously this would hurt him). All this coping and relationship talk is halted by the whole Jasmine thing so we move ahead to the end of the season.

The actual ghost of Lilah appears in 4.22 "Home" allowing Wesley to get one last bit of closure. He's obviously discomforted by her appearance, her appearance first ruining all the closure he had gained. So what does he do? He finds it again by trying to "give her some peace" and get her out of her contract. He doesn't succeed but as Lilah says, "It means something that you tried." It's also interesting that in this case Lilah thinks that when he escaped to the archives he was only out to read/swipe the evil files there when Wesley's hallucination of her had talked about him trying to save her. It wasn't until this point that actual!Lilah realized how much he wanted to save her.


Part Six: Angel, Season Five

So where are we now? Wesley is mostly back to the way he was in season three although with occasional violent outbursts. Fred still has the Professor Siedel incident on her giving her a kind of strength she didn't have a few seasons ago but her personality is pretty much back to the way it was also. But you know what we have that is new? ANOTHER FREAKING LOVE TRIANGLE. The first time around watching the show I literally groaned out loud at the introduction of Knox because it was obvious from the beginning what was happening here. Knox's only function for most of his time on the show is love interest.

So what makes the Wes/Fred/Knox love triangle different from the Wes/Fred/Gunn love triangle? A couple things really. Knox is pretty much offering the same thing Gunn was offering in terms of a relationship: that sort of easy-going, comfortable high school kind of feeling. Knox is mainly different from Gunn because of the shared interests thing that was lacking with Gunn. Knox is nerdy and works in the same department as she does. Knox also, although he insists to her frequently that he is not evil, worked for Wolfram & Hart before they showed up which is instantly suspicious. Wes is offering the same thing he was offering in season three (love, a serious commitment, shared interests) but now Fred is actually aware that he is in the picture where she wasn't the first time around. She also has had exposure to the dark sides of him and he has seen the darker sides of her giving them a history that has good (understanding, acceptance) and bad (baggage) aspects to it.

Wesley is suspicious of her close relationship with Knox early on, questioning his trustworthiness in 5.3 "Unleashed". She also doesn't seem to know how to react to Wesley in 5.4 "Hell Bound" when she thinks he's asking her out to dinner. At first it seems like Fred is leaning towards Knox as evidenced in 5.5 "Life of the Party" by her asking Wesley what he thinks of him when they are drunk and then later talking to Knox after the party. This in itself doesn't really mean that she is picking him but moreso that she is entertaining the idea which Wesley obviously finds discouraging.

5.7 "Lineage" is really the first new development in the Wes/Fred relationship in a long time. First of all, the question of why Wesley hasn't made any real effort to go after Fred is made clear. It isn't just being discouraged by Knox but also the fact that after what happened to Lilah, he is terrified of how he would handle something happening to Fred. This doesn't strike me as a very good excuse since he wasn't even with Lilah when she died and not being with Fred now certainly doesn't make him care any less about her. However, it is interesting how he has developed this fear that anyone close to him will end up being destroyed. Secondly, there are the ramifications of Wesley shooting his father to protect Fred. This in some way calls back to "Supersymmatry" when Gunn killed to protect his idea of Fred except that Wesley is killing to save her life. The important fact is that he places her life above his own father's. To Wesley, and probably some of the audience, this is a large sacrifice but an easy decision as his father has been nothing but cruel and abusive to him while Fred is the woman he loves. However, to Fred, who has very nice parents might I add, this probably looks like an even more extreme sacrifice that she is unsure of how to handle. This doesn't change her perception of Wes, as she was always aware of what he is capable of and the Connor incident certainly cemented what Angel says in this episode (that he makes all the hard decisions for the sake of the group), but it does force her to think again on his feelings for her which she probably hasn't thought of since the middle of season four. Unfortunately, the episode itself doesn't give her long to reflect as Dr. Knox: Moment Killer arrives and she walks away slowly, looking back as she goes.

By 5.9 "Harm's Way" she seems to be completely on the fence when she talks to Harmony about how both Wesley and Knox like her mumbling something about how they all work together and there's baggage, which is obviously directed as Wes, but this doesn't really show her leaning either way.

And then we come to Wes and Fred finally getting together in 5.14 "Smile Time" and yes, that was rather abrupt. It's true that there have been hints of mutual feelings as far back as 4.11 "Soulless" but there hasn't been anything definitively suggesting the ship since "Lineage" when it does look like Fred is at least considering the idea as Knox drags her away. There is a moment in 5.12 "You're Welcome" where she is watching him in a manner that would suggest further contemplation and then Wes makes a jab at Knox in 5.13 "Why We Fight" that Fred has no desire to argue against but neither of these things can necessarily be read into.

The episode starts with Knox giving Fred a valentine and Fred sighing and saying, "We talked about this." It is rather bothersome that the audience never got to hear this rather definitive rejection of one of the guys who is interested in her but this is all part of what I mean when I say Fred's decision comes strangely fast. So we get a very clear scene of Fred showing interest in Wesley that pretty much goes like this:
Wes: *Just finishes telling Angel that Nina is obviously giving him signals and waxing poetic on how you have to take your chance when a woman who have feelings for shows them back* Hey Fred! What's up?
Fred: Well, as crazy random happenstance would have it my car is in the shop so I need a ride . . . a ride that could lead to things . . . things we both want . . .
Wes: Let me call you a driver!
Fred: Oh, God damnit, Wes.
Slight exaggeration but you get the picture that Wes doesn't get the picture.

Then again there is a moment killed in the middle after Knox shows up to be kind of a petty ass to Wes and Fred and Wes talk about it. I'll use the actual dialogue this time:
Wes: So how's it going with you and Knox? I know you were starting to-
Fred: Starting and stopped, actually.
Wes: Really?
Fred: We went out a few times but . . . I don't know.
Wes:  So you stopped?
Fred: Yeah. He's nice enough but I think he's been working here too long. Plus he doesn't make me laugh at all. I mean he tries but-
Wes: I see. You're looking for someone funny.
Fred: A certain kind of funny, yeah, but I'm not so much looking for as I am looking a-
Wes: Hang on!
And buzzkill comes in the form of helping the helpless duty.

And just because I have fun with my own dialogue:
Fred: Haven't you noticed anything different lately? About me?
Wes: Well, you have been wearing more miniskirts than before . . . I mean . . .
Fred: About how I feel towards you?
Wes: . . . Is this a test?
Fred: Oh screw it! *kiss*
Wes: Wait a minute. What's going on here?
Fred: That was a signal. Was that clear enough?
Wes: Not even close.
*Makes out to puppet song about self esteem*

So what exactly provokes Fred to finally chose Wesley? I think the question is not so much why as there are a number of logical reasons throughout the series why she should pick him that I have addressed in detail throughout this essay thing. The question really is: Why now? Knox enters Fred's life at around the time when she would be more ready to get into a relationship again as she has gotten over Gunn and there's no Big Bad to fight. He is a fresh face when she needs one and she has probably decided that Wesley either A.) doesn't have feelings for her anymore since it hasn't come up again or B.) is still getting over Lilah's death and it would be awful of her to even consider him an option in that case. "Lineage" changes that by showing her that Wesley still likes her and cares about her so much and although her rejection of Knox is stated, not shown, the ending of "Lineage" where Knox is leading her away from Wesley but she is looking back at him seems to foreshadow that she will go along with Knox for now but really has eyes for Wesley. It just takes seven episodes to get to that point and my thinking is simply that they had episodes they wanted to fit in before Fred's death.

Now, I have a lot of conflicting feelings regarding Fred's death when I view it, as I am trying to view this entire entry, through a writer's eye (when viewed through my fangirl eye my response can be summed up as: WHY, JOSS, WHY? *gross sobbing*). This conflict arises from the fact that I can see both the benefits of this plot twist and one big sloppy negative that the rest of the series is in a battle to correct. I'll start with the benefits.

If you have ever watched any television show with a romance subplot you are probably familiar with the "will they or won't they" concept, the idea of two characters who are well-suited for each other and have chemistry who manage to always just miss actually ending up in a relationship for a very long time. This is great fuel for maintaining an audience but the problem is that, as with all things, it can turn into poor writing when it is overused so at some point the couple has to definitively answer the question. Usually the answer is "they do" since that is most satisfying and when you set up the situation in the first place, it is hard to dismantle. With this new relationship formed, the entire set up of these characters is different and now you have to write about what they are like together and if you have successfully established their characters to be well-suited enough for each other for the majority of the audience to be happy about them coming together, you have probably invented a couple who will be extremely boring when they actually get together. They will love each other, go on dates, get married, have kids and be just as unexciting as most of the people watching the show. This clearly would have been Wesley and Fred's fate as it is hard to imagine that anything could separate them now other than death. By killing off Fred, the writing regarding Wesley can remain interesting where both he and Fred would have become entirely static characters had they gotten their happy ending and this would give the writers less to play with.

The second reason why killing off Fred is actually good from a writing perspective is the introduction of Illyria. Illyria is a very interesting character and also a new main character, something the show hasn't managed in a long time (Spike and Harmony are Buffy cast-offs after all). Also, with the coming apocalypse, she is the strongest of everyone on the team and the most likely to give them a chance to win. While this is all well and good and fun, the biggest function she performs really is allowing Wesley to continue his last leg of character development before his death. It would have been a very different, and less intriguing, turn of events if Fred had just died like a normal person but by essentially becoming this inescapable ghost in Wesley's life, it really changes how he would handle the situation.

So now we get to my big problem with the plot point: it muddles the beauty of "Supersymmatry", the episode I said was the most important in the development of Wes and Fred's relationship. The main point about Wesley and Fred's relationship that is established in that episode is the fact that Wes views Fred completely as a person while Gunn has trouble separating the person of Fred from the idea of Fred thus showing why Wes and Fred really are the best match. Now Fred's outward appearance of "goodness" ends up inducing another love interest, Knox, to also develop an idea of Fred as a symbol of something greater than her actual self and in this case, it's very disturbingly literal. Knox initially seems to like Fred in the same way that both Wesley and Gunn liked her from the beginning, in that simple crush kind of way, but he ends up bringing about her death because he actually just views her as a perfect container for something he loves: Illyria. She is just a shell to him and a lot of 5.15 "Hole In The World" presents a contrast to how Knox wants her and how Wesley loves her.

The problem comes after Fred has died. The writing seems to struggle between turning Fred into a symbol that Wesley will never be truly happy and trying to keep that from happening and it is really difficult trying to make sense of it. It is highly interpretative in a way little else about their relationship has been. Now, there are some people who argue that Fred is always viewed as a symbol to Wesley which is something I have been trying to disprove throughout this whole essay but there is one line in particular that comes under scrutiny during 5.15:
Fred: Would you have loved me?
Wes: I've loved you since I've known you. No, that's not . . . I mean, maybe even before.
A lot of people who support the idea that Wesley thinks of Fred as a symbol argue that this line means that Fred is this idealized perfect woman who Wes has been looking for. I don't think that this is suppose to be literal by any means. First of all, prior to meeting Fred Wesley's romantic endeavors didn't resemble her in any way. Fred is not comparable to Cordelia or Virginia (or Lilah for that matter) and this really seems to show that Wesley really didn't know what kind of woman he wanted until he got to know Fred and that was when he concluded that Fred, not someone like Fred but Fred herself, was the woman he wanted to be with. Secondly, it should be pointed out that Wesley did not love Fred from the first time he met her. He started liking her after a few months and maybe started loving her a few months after that but it wasn't like he met her and knew she was the one. To me the line is more poetic than anything; a fancy way of saying, "I think we are soulmates and so even if I wasn't conscious of it, there was fate at work here." Destiny is a big theme on Angel as a whole so this would definitely fall in line with that.

Like that line, there's a lot of parts that can be viewed at two ways. When Fred dies, he's the only one who really accepts that she is dead in the beginning. He gets angry (murderous angry). He blames her for her curiosity. And then he slips into a depression. The depression he suffers is where the conflicting part comes from. When Illyria sees that her kingdom (her world) is gone, Wesley says, "Now you know how I feel." In that sentence Wesley has elevated Fred to the status of essentially his "meaning in life" thus turning her into a symbol if you think of it literally. The thing is though, the sort of extreme depression he suffers and even the way he talks about her in this line is not actually an unusual thing in real life psychology. Kurt Vonnegut would call it a dupress, there are songs about this phenomenon, and there are a slew of real life examples. There's no real term for it although it usually leads to "broken heart syndrome" (and yes, that's the medical term). The way my psych professor had explained it was something to the effect of, "When someone is unable to ever recover from the death of someone close to them because this person was not just someone they loved but an actual part of them." In that sense I guess Fred is more than a person to Wesley after she dies but this supports the "soulmate" thing from before more than it supports the idea that she is now a concept over a person. It is ultimately because of this that Wesley will embrace death freely.

The messiest thing in the writing is really how Wesley feels about Illyria herself. In "Shells" he says that he will help her because she looks like Fred but spends a great deal of time being angry by her presence. The part of himself that is okay with her could actually be broken down into 1.) fascination that is inherent in him as studying things like her is his job and 2.) a desire to be close to the fragments of Fred's memory and what is left of her. If it hadn't been for the memories, he probably would have thrown her out much quicker. In 5.17 "Underneath" he is a little sloshed and tries to convince her to leave because her presence is torment to him, but she tells him that she can't. In 5.19 "Time Bomb" Illyria says that he tried to kill her and bring back Fred and she is okay with it but it is hard to tell if this actually happened or it happened in a different timeline so I don't know how useful this dialogue is. However, he does bring up the fact that he can't look at Illyria without seeing Fred again and Wesley admits to Angel that he doesn't love Illyria but that he needs her around right now. He never really says why but the reason is either because of everything I stated before about how she is a living memento or it could be part of Wesley's continual need to make himself miserable.

In spite of her resemblance and memories being reasons why Wesley allows her to stay, he draws the line at actual impressions. When she first shows him the memories by repeating Fred's last words in her voice, he is horrified and demands that she stop. Similarly in 5.20 "The Girl In Question" when she assumes Fred's appearance to fool her parents so Wes won't have to tell them she died, he only allows it to continue to keep up the lie to them. Afterwards when she essentially says that she wants to experiment with being with him as Fred, he tells her to never look like her again. Wesley has never been in denial about her death and while he admits that he needs Illyria's presence, he does not want or need to pretend Fred lives. Even when he is dying and Illyria offers to lie to him, she is playing the role of "the ghost of Fred" and not Fred herself, talking about how they will be together in the afterlife, showing that he never fooled himself into thinking she was still alive even in his own last moments.

What it boils down to is, Wesley's opinion of Fred post mortem could really be looked at either way. Is Illyria just a symbol of his lost love he is keeping around to torture himself with to remind himself that things will never be good again without her or is he just grieving with the most realistic token of her life that he could get (her memories and form) while knowing Fred can never return to him? I lean towards the latter but I think the writing does make it kind of ambiguous. I think it would actually be cleaner writing if Wesley wanted to keep Illyria around simply to keep an eye on her with Fred having nothing to do with it until Illyria herself starts complicating things with her memories.

And as for interesting other thing to ponder, it has been said by the Powers That Be that if Angel had a sixth season, Fred would have slowly started to overtake Illyria as possibly evidenced by Wesley's dream in "Underneath" depending on your interpretation. Also, I personally like to try to imagine how different things might have been if Wesley, not Fred, had become Illyria. I think this almost would have been more interesting and telling about their relationship since Fred would not be nearly as predicable as Wesley.

So there it is. From start to finish, why (almost) every little detail of this relationship is crafted to create a story that needs no altering.

Here's hoping you got something out of this too.














Now can someone please write that Wesley as Illyria fanfic? I'd actually read that.

4 comments:

  1. What a fantastic read! I applaud your brilliant effort, and your analysis of one of my favourite character arcs of the buffyverse.

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  2. That was very cool. I think Wesley as Illyria would have been a heart-breaking end to his character because Fred didn't have the same attachment to him. I think she loved him and would have been devastated but she didn't have a couple of years worth of feelings, or the heart-break of not being chosen by her love. She would have gotten over it and we would have been left with no Wesley. And a world without Wesley, is the real world. :(


    Thank you for this. Your analysis was both well-written and entertaining, particularly your take on the dialogue :D

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    1. I agree that Fred didn't have the same attachment to Wesley but I think that's why it would have been so interesting. What if Wesley!Illyria tried to attach itself to her in the same way Fred!Illyria did to Wesley? That might have actually caused her to behave against what we would expect. And I don't think anyone would fully get over that kind of trauma even if she did try to date other guys.

      Thank you so much for reading and I'm glad you enjoyed it!

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