Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Keep on Fighting!

Well, this is the first time I've ever successfully predicted the ending of a season of Angel or Buffy! (Of course, I had Joss' big old hint that one of the cast members would die to work with.) I hate to see any of the characters be killed off because, being an unrealistic optimist, I still cling to hopes of further adventures for these characters. And I hate to see Alexis Denisof written out, partly because he's married to Alyson Hanigan (Willow), and it's sad to think he might be left out of the fun she and the others might have someday in a movie/spin-off, and partly because he's just been so great on the show. (You could always count on Buffy fans who moved over to Angel this year to say, Wow, when did Wesley become so hot!?) I predicted his death partly because his storyline has been the most emotional and resonant recently. But, of course, I won't get too upset. If there's one thing we know about the Buffyverse, it's that a character's death usually means the actor gets more and juicier work to do afterwards!

It was a fantastic episode capping off a fantastic season. I enjoyed the filmnoir/detective-agency setup of the series' initial seasons, but I didn't feel the show had much urgency for a couple seasons. The fifth (and final) season was clearly the show's best (Buffy's best was season 5, too--hmm), and what I love about the finale is what I loved about the season as a whole: Whedon & Co. grounded it in meaningful metaphor (something the superior show Buffy had consistently and from the moment it hit the airwaves). Better yet, it was a metaphor that more immediately speaks to adults (thus sowing the seeds of the show's demise on the teen-centric WB?)--how to fight the good fight while being part of the system. Putting Angel & Co. in charge of Wolfram and Hart turned out to be a stroke of genius. It was an unusually stilted season opener (considering Joss directed) that established the storyline, but the season soared from there. The story arc of the last 8 episodes (Illyria and the Circle of the Black Thorn) was a bit more routine--they nearly run out of jokes about the number of Apocalypses they've faced--but it had many great moments and ideas, from Illyria herself (transformation of an actor; a character you expect to be the threat ends up joining the team against the real threat; hilarious dialogue) to the creative Legion of Doom-esque alliance of previous villains. Plus they (mostly) got rid of annyoing Eve and replaced her with a somewhat better character. Would have liked more about Angel's inheritance of the visions that were so central to the first four seasons, but then again, I'd had about enough of them. If nothing else, the Buffyverse writers excel at getting rid of ideas/devices/characters that have worn out their welcome.

So in the end, the show lived up to its good-guys-fighting-evil theme, but looking back over the whole series, I think its truest theme was that of repentence & redemption--love and happiness always deferred and thwarted by the higher call. The show also was obsessed by the theme of the futility of fighting to escape one's history, but my favorite theme was that of pure heroism--of the Champion--that crystalized for me in the Season 2 episode, "The Trial," one of my all-time favorites. Last but not least, if there's one thing I learned from Angel, it's that prophecies don't mean a damn thing. If history is impossible to escape, destiny, on the other hand, was always a much slipperier concept. I didn't blame Angel for signing away his claim to the Shanshu prophecy (possibly saying goodbye to the chance at humanity)--by now he'd clearly learned the value of such cheap promises and that he was better off forging his own path than relying on destiny. Heroes and vampires don't let a little thing like death stop them--what's cancellation compared to that?


A critic for the NYDaily News suggests that the Hamilton character could be read as a stand-in for network executives. (As much as I hated the cancellation, though, I have to admit the WB's treatment of the finale, as with Buffy's, was very classy.)

The Toronto Eye carries a provocative piece reading the last seasons of Buffy and Angel (plus Firefly) in more purely political terms


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