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  1. This really isn't a fair criticism given they likely didn't know at the time they were making this episode that the series was going to be over, but the Spike/Angel/Immortal stuff feels such wasted time for these last few episodes. I understand the need for some levity given how grim the final story ends up being, but the wacky adventures in Europe just feels like it comes out of nowhere and doesn't amount to much. It also creates a bit of tonal problem given the emotionally heavy story of Illyria & Wes is contrasted with the A plot and thus we get an episode that can't decide what its going for. The series for Angel and this season for Spike demonstrated how both had grown beyond merely their love for Buffy and it was a character arc that didn't really need this episode to make that point. I might have liked it more if it had happened earlier in the season, but as is it feels like comedy fluff without much poignancy.
  2. Its a kudos to Vincent Kartheiser that he manages two new characterizations of Connor (false memories and combined memories) as naturally and organically as he did his previous one in season 4. Given how much he made weaselly Pete Campbell on Mad Men a compelling character that's no surprise. I am glad that the memory spell was lifted as I wouldn't want the series finished with it intact, though with Coredelia & Fred both dead and only so many episodes left, it sadly really doesn't get explored as much as it could have been.
  3. I'm of two minds on the Illyria plotline. On one hand, its fits in nicely with the theme of the continual costs AI is dealing with as part of the Wolfram and Hart deal. A metaphorical corruption with Gunn paralleled by a literal one with Fred, all while Angel having to accept the constant compromises as part of his growing discomfort of his decision. Amy Acker would go on to kill it in the role, and On the other hand... we're losing a character that still feels like she has loads of elements to explore about her and largely in the tragic, yet less interesting dynamic of being an innocent bystander, not unlike Tara on Buffy. There's potential for great drama in her falling into becoming Illyria, but the inherent problem is that the episode seems emphasized towards the effect on all the characters around her. Wesley's heartbreak, Lorne's anger, Gunn's guilt, Angel & Spike's helplessness. Its all great character stuff, but in an episode about Fred's death, she feels the least explored. ' Its not made much better after a similar element happened with the Cordelia the previous season where her character is (You're Welcome notwithstanding) essentially wiped out in favor of her body being corrupted by another being, and the affect it has on Connor, Angel, etc. Cordy and Fred were richly drawn people with nuanced layers, and it feels unfortunate that their possession/demises feel more about facilitating a showcase of angst and pain of the (largely male) characters around them than the thematic destination of their particular journeys.
  4. I could see William in his early days after his siring but before he really developed the personality/persona of Spike doing poems for Drusilla. The only way the Manilow thing makes sense to me is Angelus mentioning it to Spike & Dru in season 2 of Buffy as yet another reason why he despised (being?) Angel.
  5. Given Wesley's clear familiarity with Spike, its entirely possible some combination of him, Cordelia, and/or Angel mentioned him in some detail in late S1/S2, especially after Darla & Drusilla showed up in LA.
  6. I think its somewhat illustrative of Wesley's complicated and baggage heavy relationship with the gang that it takes an outsider like Willow for him to even express some discomfort with what he's become. He's pretty much kept up the cold exterior ever since the Price, but for all the talk and occasional memes about the "badass Wesley", its a scene that really shows how unhappy he really is as this version of himself. I'm curious if seeing how Willow's managed to come back from her own dark place is what starts to get him away from the distant and bitter shell he developed over the past year.
  7. The revealing thing about Wes is that if even told about Sahjhan's forgery, if push came to shove, I think he'd still sooner apologize for getting the information wrong than for not trusting his friends and taking Connor without intending to come back. The former's a mistake of research; something he should know better and I can easily imagine him believing he should have spotted some clue that would have tipped him off. The latter though is deeply tied into his own self image as the hard thinking leader with the burden of doing what's necessary for the greater good when no one else will. That statement he had back in Pylea is something he's gradually defined himself as more and more: "You try not to get anybody killed, you wind up getting everybody killed".
  8. Interesting that in the episode that has Spike join another series as a permanent cast member, also has Harmony essentially fulfilling Spike's role in early season 4 of Buffy: the soulless vampire now as comic relief alongside the heroes. Funnily enough she actually has far more story justification than he did back then, as her presence at W&H makes complete sense and Harmony is far less dangerous to Angel's crew than Spike with a chip was to the Scoobies.
  9. Something I realized during a rewatch was that that like the episodes title, Wesley was in a sense, extracting a price from Gunn for his help. Once he hears about Fred, I think Wes decides immediately to intervene, but he (who has been literally voiceless since the ending of Sleep Tight) does subtly get a payment from Gunn via the latter having to hear what he has to say first. The same pride that's been part his character both compels him to essentially get the last word in against the team, and the pain of being exiled from AI likely drives him to have some image of control over it hence the message of "I'm not welcome there; well none of you are welcome here." A lot of the dynamic he'll have with the others in Season 4 is essentially laid out here too.
  10. Really what's fascinating about Wes is though he changes a lot, there's an undercurrent of his character that's present through his entire run on Buffy and Angel. That greater good mindset he got from Watcher training manifests blatantly in Sunnydale, especially with his unwarranted arrogance. Yet so many of his decisions, especially when he becomes the functional leader of AI are rooted in that same way of thinking. That mixture of pride and resigned acceptance at doing the necessary evil when no one else will is what drives his greatest mistake in taking Connor and explains his cold aloofness for some time afterwards; not only the pain of believing he was abandoned by his friends, but an emotional isolation he now thinks his bigger picture outlook demands as part of fighting the good fight. He gradually and subtly reunites with the gang in S4, but the same trusting bonds with the likes of Angel and Gunn are never restored, and while acknowledging the depths of his darkness, his ends justify the means calculations end up being cynically justified at points. Indeed the bitter irony is that Wesley's unsentimental pragmatism in Season 4 is what finally makes him a better watcher for Faith, more impressive rogue demon hunter in LA, and much vindicated decision maker in AI than he had been before. His greatest failures in the past countered with genuine successes, but at the cost of being someone who's lost much of the warmth and close friendships he deeply cherished in season 2/3. In many ways a new man, but certainly not a happier one. It does make me wish the show hadn't utilized the mindwipe at least for him. There was an interesting story to be told of Wes immediately reacting to the spell and grappling with the idea of whether it and the decision to run W&H served the kind of greater benefit he could understood or that it was something that served chiefly Angel rather than the good fight.
  11. This all leans into headcanon, but I think with Wesley, the events of the Price might have set him in his ways as far as his outlook. Angel's anger in Forgiving and the likes of Fred being upset with him in Double or Noting were understandable given how fresh the kidnapping by Holtz occurred. However Gunn coming to him just to get his help with no interest at all in hearing his side of the story (with no indication that anyone else wanted to either) could have convinced him that it wasn't just their pain keeping them away but a deliberate choice to disregard him entirely regardless of anything he had to say. At that point he might have concluded that apologies or any sort of direct appeal were useless at that point since they wouldn't have listened to begin with. So between that, Connor coming back alive alleviating some of his guilt, and a colder personality to shield himself from the hurt, you basically get Wesley in season 4. He does look for Angel for months, researches Cordelia's disappearance, and apparently was following Fred's work, so clearly he hadn't abandoned them despite any claims he makes to Lilah. He gives Fred help in Supersymmetry (though that's very self interested motive wise) and immediately agrees to Lorne's request for the helping with Cordelia's memory spell. However selfish he might be in not apologizing, he clearly does care and help the gang even though there's no real indication (Angel's rather non committal "we're okay" in Deep Down aside) that it will change anything between them. At its core I think its pride, which is true to his character throughout this and Buffy. Even though I believe in his heart Wesley knows he committed the worse act comparatively, I think there's an inability to get past his bitterness that no one reached out to understand his actions. He'll help when asked and will always look at for them in one way or another, but in his mind there's no point to an apology towards people who are uninterested and won't acknowledge what they did to him. Not a very decent or upstanding attitude, but its the vibe I get.
  12. I was always curious about how to interpret both Wesley and Gunn's actions in this one when it came to Fred. Wes is less than subtle in trying to elevate himself at her boyfriend's expense with some of his questions, and even his mention that Gunn and Angel are right about what killing the professor will do to her feels like a token ethical acknowledgement for appearances rather than anything he really believes, It is fascinating that to me that her intentions seem to have no real effect on his feelings for her; either its such an unconditional love or maybe he really believes she's not doing anything terribly wrong. Given his morally gray actions that skirted the line between necessary evil for the greater good and revenge (see his imprisonment of Justine), I'm left to wonder if he views Fred's act in a similar way. Gunn comes across as selfless in condemning himself rather the letting Fred have blood on her hands. Yet the episode has an undercurrent of him not quite getting her in the same way Wesley does (his confusion at her paper and presentation is the most blatant example), and it seems to extend to her desire for vengeance a bit as well. He emphasizes that doing this will change her, and it starts getting uncertain if its just a desire for her not be be tainted by a committing murder or if Gunn is troubled at seeing her as someone beyond the sweet and innocent woman he fell in love with. At what point does not respecting her wishes in this go from necessary moral interference to taking away her choice out of a presumption that she will regret it?
  13. I always really liked that scene between Angel and Wesley. Its the first real interaction they've had (hunger induced visions in Deep Down aside) since Forgiving and there's so much character subtext in what's said and ambiguity in what isn't. Angel does seem genuine in his gratitude for Wes finding him and on some level appears to want to get past the ugly events that's gone on between the two. It does contrast against the cold distance Wesley's developed and how far away he's gotten from the klutzy but competent researcher circa season 2/early 3. On the other hand, its entirely possible that the former watcher's cynicism about Angel's real reason for visiting is more correct than the vampire lets on, and it is telling that the latter never actually disputes Wes's claim of why he's there after getting the major information about Cordelia. Even Wes's expression after Angel says they're okay again seems both quietly grateful while deeply skeptical. It sets up an interesting dynamic between them for the rest of the season.
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