Thanks so much for sharing space on your thread for random AtS discussion. Your AtS analyses this past season deepened the meaning each episode held for me and increased my enjoyment tenfold.
And I'm not exaggerating, btw. Prior to finding S3 and the analyses sheltered here, I was more inclined to view the episodes for the funny and "turgid supernatural soap opera" features rather than the deeper story behind the story.
So: Thanks for everything.
Linda, analysis fan -- which I never would've believed a little over a year ago
I was thinking that this could be kinda relevant since TNT is rerunning AtS Season Five beginning this week. Please feel free to skip this post, though. It's just a rehash of the season. A few parts ago, someone posted a link to The Deadly Hook's LJ entry and discussion about the AtS Season 5 overall story. While she made some interesting observations, I kinda got the feeling that she was missing the point. The thing that stood out for me was the fact that she seems to consider Illyria to be an arbitrary story element / character. I disagree.
Here's what I see as the meta-story for AtS Season 5: Joss was commenting about the power elite of American society. Or perhaps our acceptance of that power elite. The members of the Black Thorne were representatives of entrenched power: ArchDuke Sebassis represented power through social & blood connections. Senator B represented power through political connections. Magnus Hainsley represented power through behind-the-scenes manipulations. (Yes, I know he died in the 2nd ep, but I'm sure he was a member.) Izzy represented power through business connections. The Fell Brethren represented power through a willingness to sacrifice others. Vail, always different (and so still alive IMHO -- shameless Greggist plug), represents power maintained through mass-delusion. (This thought just occurred to me as I type: he's the news / entertainment industry? Dayum.)
Another layer: the Black Thorne could also represent Angel's "sins." Sebassis would be his sin of arrogant entitlement. Senator B, his grab for power. Magnus Hainsley, his hidden manipulations. Izzy, his acceptance of W&H power. The Fell Brethren, his willingness to sacrifice others without their consent. And Vail, his willingness to lie to himself and others. ('Nother Greggist plug: repented of all sins except the last, so Vail's still alive along with Wes.)
As for our heroes, just as Willow represented Buffy's spirit, Xander her heart, Giles her mind, Dawn her innocence and Spike her Slayerness, <ETA: thanks to Spring for her illuminating analyses & posts on this subject> I believe that Wes, Gunn, Fred, Lorne and Spike each represent an important aspect of Angel. (Please blame Erin for my obsession with Aspects -- it's certainly not MY fault...) I admit I may be wrong, especially since I have not looked at the previous seasons of Angel through this prism. Regardless, I am certain that the Aspects would have been reconfigured this season, since Spike is an entirely new element in the series. I believe that Wes represents Angel's mind / intellect; Gunn, his will to fight; Fred, his heart; Lorne, his empathy; and Spike, his champion-ness.
Consider what happens to each of them in the course of the season: Wes was incrementally unbalanced by the consequences of his and Angel's decisions -- and then he was "killed" by the Big Dumb Plan. Gunn was distracted and then corrupted by the trappings of power -- and then repented and tried to atone for his sins. Fred, who was the only one to connect the Fang Gang to each other, was attacked from within, then slowly & excruciatingly turned into a hollow, hardened shell. The shell, Illyria, was obsessed with power -- although when she loses her power over everything except herself, she learns about love. Lorne was distracted by the happy lies that are the entertainment industry and then his opinions were pretty much ignored by Angel even unto the very end (IMO). Spike started out as spirit, having been rendered more or less ineffectual as a consequence of using Angel's W&H amulet (though with exceptions due to sheer will.) He becomes solid only when the issue of the Shanshu comes up. For the most part, he remained immune to the seduction of power, though not to the seduction of rewards -- until Fred's death. After that, he committed himself to doing what was right.
I believe that all of the above mirrored Angel's inner journey which began with his acceptance and use of W&H power. And through AtS Season 5, I believe Joss also has commented about his and our acceptance of the status quo. Made explicit IMO, with Underneath's depiction of suburbia as Purgatory and the fact that The Apocalypse is ongoing. (Side note: Angel saw suburbia as a reward, while Spike saw it as Hell.)
I know that the above is presented somewhat sketchily and unsupported by examples, but I thought it would be interesting to keep in mind as the reruns unfolded on TNT for the next few weeks.
I am not feeling at all dogmatic about the above, so I would love to hear any alternate interpretations if anybody has 'em. 'Cause I know there *is* such a layer to Joss' storytelling. The guy is just too much of a control "enthusiast" to have only one layer to any work that has his name on it.
Side note: I love big patterns, but sometimes boiling things down to their essence makes 'em sound boring, doesn't it? 'Cause eeetah with Julia about Jossverse stories doing the "meat & potatoes" sheer entertainment side so well. It makes the stuff going on underneath so much more difficult to notice due to the distraction of all the pretty and funny and heartbreaking things happening onscreen.
Linda, determined to fix her home computer this weekend, although I may decide to buy a sledgehammer as the main tool for said fix
P.S. Many thanks to those who commented on this post back in Part 291. I have quoted your posts here as well. I may have missed a couple of posts, for which I apologize. However, if I have taken an unacceptable liberty by quoting you over here, please IM me and I will delete it (or feel free to ask your friendly neighborhood Technopagan to do so). I just thought that the points brought up were excellent.
Linda, though the season didn't *feel* as connected as that to me, this is a very intelligent and persuasive interpretation of what was intended, if not fully executed. I think perhaps the Fang Gang (plus Spike) are too much themselves for me to perceive what they represent--the reasons they were invented by the writers in the first place. And I *know* those reasons change...inasmuch as Spike was intended as a throw-away villain, it wasn't at first envisioned for Angel to leave BtVS and be the focus of his own show, etc. Circumstances, and characters, change as they develop and the original intention is often left behind or outgrown. But AtS was in its fifth season, and the decision to bring Spike into the mix was made (of course) before writing even began. So the change is less, in a mature series, in terms of the relationships of the characters to one another and who the characters are, and what they represent, as individuals is not as fluid as in the beginning. So you may well be right about the thinking *behind* the thinking.
But if so--where did the Circle of the Black Thorn come from? Why wasn't it introduced earlier? I had, and have, the feeling of all the pre-established baddies being gathered together arbitrarily and given a cohesion they didn't originally have. For instance, where is the maker of Robo-Dad and the killer cyborgs? How does Pavayne fit into the Circle? Or the wicked puppets? Since the concept of the Circle was introduced only at the end, it feels tacked on to me--something imposed on a reality of independent forces rather than something believably connecting them and only discovered/revealed at that point.
Given that the whole idea of the Circle of the Black Thorn isn't persuasive to me, I have a hard time envisioning the characters being facets of Angel quite so diagamatically. The whole season seems to me a lot more slap-dash than that, and I can't read quite as much cool-headed intention into its construction as this interpretation would require.
But that may just be the writer in me talking--requiring proper set-up for every major event (and especially the conclusion!) of any fictional narrative. And your interpretation certainly fits the final product, no matter what went into the making of that result. Good thinking, regardless, and economically and clearly put.
Thank you for your comments! I really appreciate that you can be so encouraging even while disagreeing with me. <== Happy, blushy smiley
You are very possibly right about the slap-dashery of the season. I think that Joss can be something of an opportunist when it comes to utilizing story elements. This hindsight thing can be distorting.
The main reason that I get the feeling that it is Joss & ME's intention to have the supporting characters mirror the main character's internal journey actually stems from an almost offhand comment that Joss made on the commentary track of Wild at Heart from the BtVS Season 4 DVD set. He said that the story of Oz's leaving was the only one they'd ever done in which the things which happened to Willow and Oz did NOT mirror or connect back to Buffy's inner development. Which implied that it *did* in all of the other episodes.
Eetah with you that what was intended is not always what we see, though.
Regarding the Black Thorn members: I actually do see a reason why each one was selected to be a part of the cabal. Throughout the season -- Sebassis, Izzy, the Fell Brethren, Senator B., Vail -- these were the ones to whom Angel deferred as a direct result of their power over his W&H position (or, in Vail's case, the original reason he was there in the first place). And this was in spite of their obvious evilness. Each occasion caused Angel, I believe, to chip away at his personal principles in order to do so. All the other evil-doers were more or less defeated or at least neutralized.
The one exception to the list of SP-connected Black Thorners: Magnus Hainsley. Angel did NOT defer to him, and he had the most direct Power over Angel -- power over the dead. This is the thing that hit me when I re-watched Just Rewards this past week: the defeat of Hainsley was a mirror of Angel's Big Dumb Plan, with Spike (the questionable champion) standing in for Angel. Like Angel, Spike gave every appearance of having betrayed them all. Spike basically inhabited the skin of a Power Player and gave Angel the chance to behead him. Just as Angel inhabited the form of a Power Player and gave the Gang the opportunity to behead the SP's Council on this plane of existence.
So: Foreshadowing? Opportunism? Or recycling?
It's fun keeping things like this in the back of my mind as I re-watch the season. I could very well be proven wrong, but it's *neat* when a new piece seems to fit the pattern. (Why yes, I *am* a geek.)
Linda, of the three, I favor foreshadowing. But I admit that I could be giving Joss too many genius points ...
I was watching LOtP and consciously looking for members of the Circle of Black Thorn when, yup, Lorne says "Hey, Angel, over here are the Elders of the Fell Brethren" and takes him away from the Archduke before somebody gets whacked.
First - hi, Linda! And thank you for gracing us with your thoughts here. As I just mentioned to LadyDi in my Blood Ties analysis thread, I have sort of avoided given much analytical thought to Season 5.
Saying that, I think you've made some great points here, and I definitely agree that Illyria was a significant character, whose make-up was quite deliberate and fit with the season arc.
On the "real world" side, I did think we were looking at corporate greed and at the current war (Angel's big plan to strike a huge surprise blow at the Great Satan, it just sounded a little too familiar.)
On the Angelverse side, I thought the Season primarily set Angel up to face his Angelus side (in Season 6) and finally claim full responsibility for it, and integrate that dark side into himself - so that the "loss of soul" threat became less of a threat . . . Angel would end the artificial separation which was coming apart throughout the Season (in an uncontrolled way.) Almost all the eps dealt with duality - Angel locks a sadistic serial killer in his basement and says that it is "hell" to be locked up that way just as if he knows how it feels; look what happens to Lorne when he tries to deny himself an important part of himself (his sleep); Spike actually beats Angel to the bogus cup; Angel kills Drogyn . . .
There was a lot more, I'm thinking, but unless I was reviewing the ep, I watched with half-an-eye most of the time. Maybe I just still wasn't over losing BtVS - don't know.
OH, and Vail: Dead, dead, deader than a doornail.
Eetah for the most part, except for Vail being dead -- doornail-y or otherwise .
And I completely understand about the loss of BtVS. I feel a bit more of an emotional distance from AtS, possibly since Spike is not as emotionally engaged here. In my case, the distance is what probably makes my viewings of AtS a bit more analytical than before.
Very intriguing ideas here! I really agree with you that Illyria was not an abritrary or irrelevant character/story line. And I think you hit the nail right on the head when you connected her with the idea of power. (Huh. It's always about the power, isn't it?) Your parallels of the various big bads representing various examples of "powerful" people or groups in society is very persuasive.
And then, as you said: Quote: The shell, Illyria, was obsessed with power -- although when she loses her power over everything except herself, she learns about love.
Interesting to think of the others in the group representing (or perhaps mirroring would be a better word) different aspects of Angel. Or things that Angel has to face. Because I can really see that. Not necessarily as a major/in your face theme from Joss and Co., but as a commentary on the main arc of the show.
Very very glad you shared your thoughts, Linda. You really helped me understand/put into words the places where I was differing from Deadly Hook's theory. See, now I very selfishly want your home computer fixed so that you can post more often.
I agree with you on the feeling of slapdashedness of some of the aspects of S5 but I wanted to add that I think that whatever Linda or anyone else takes away - or puts together - is just as important as the intent of the creator of the stories. Meanings and symbols are different for everyone and, unless the author is pretty explicit, I think everyone is going to find whatever message means the most to them. Which is one of the reasons I so enjoy all the different interpretations here.
Linda, I have no idea when you are gonna read this, but it's good to see that you are still with us when you can be. I very much liked your well-thought-out mini-analysis of Season 5.
I haven't checked on it yet, but I thought that the cyborgs were Blackthorn agents too... someone mentioned possibly seeing the symbol on a round piece of metal somewhere in their guts... anyone? anyone? Whew, it's cold in here... I want my blankies and my warm pussycat!!!
Thank you, sir, for the kind words.
As to the cyborgs, I have no clue. Perhaps they were left as a loose end for possible usage in Season Six. They could be plausibly retconned to be either good or evil, after all.
I'm not sure what purpose they would serve in the machinations of the Black Thorn, though, if they (the BT) were privy to SP plans and the cyborg-ninja goal seemed to be kidnapping Angel and subverting his will. Hmmm...an end run around Wesley's vigilance, maybe. Gotta think on it.
And sending heal-y thoughts your way. Weasels be damned.
Linda, only dealing with a sick computer this time around.
Linda - You blew me away with your S5 analysis.........Or why "VM" and "Lost" (altho fun TV) probably won't be the next "Buffy" or "Angel".
What do you think of the lack/destruction of the female element in S5?
I hope you get your computer fixed soon!
Sue- Puppet porn? ROTFLMAO!!
Thank you for your kind remarks about my AtS season Five thoughts.
Regarding the lack / destruction of the female element in Season 5: I dunno. I don't believe that Joss is a misogynist. (But eeetah with Rachael about the sheer number of demon pregnancy storylines in AtS over the course of the series.) The Cordy situation in Season 5 was, I believe, an unfortunate result of some real life issues affecting the Season 4 storyline. (Not gonna talk about Cordy/Connor either, 'cause, ick.) As for Fred, well, I think that Joss needed to have the most painful consequence imaginable occur before Angel started coming back from the wrong turn he took. And I believe that Fred was chosen, not because she was the damsel in distress, but because she was the strongest character, morally and spiritually in the group AND she connected them all to each other. I don't consider any of it to be female bashing, since Spike went through a great deal of torment, especially in BtVS Season 7, and came through as one of the richest, most layered and heroic fictional characters -- well, ever. (IMHO.) I really feel that Joss is an equal opportunity tormentor.
And too bad Eve ended up being such a non-entity. I wish they had chosen Christina Hendricks (Bridge-Saff-Yo, aka Saffron from Firefly) to play Eve as Sara suggested in her Our Mrs. Reynolds review. Or some other actress with more chemistry than Sarah Thompson. And there was potential for Harmony's storyline. But I think she would have had to have gone through some pretty painful things before she acquired the depth of character to hold her own with everyone else as something other than comic relief.
Linda, and btw that is one creepy avatar you got there!
I didn't mean to imply that Joss was a misogynist. Quite the opposite, in fact. I do think he might have been showing that taking the female element out of the picture was very distructive to the Fang Gang. She was their heart, maybe their compass. Much like a mother. I hate that we don't get to see that storyline resolved.
I agree that Fred was targeted because she was the strongest - Wonder Woman. And I think that the SP's put her in harm's way (Knox) because of that. To take her out.
I do think it was intentional on Joss's part to show how corporations disregard, and maybe destroy, the basic feminine contributions of women (and the feminine part in men, in some way), to the detriment of all involved.
Haven't thought this out very thoroughly, and I'm probably not expressing it well, but it's something I've been chewing on for a while.
I think you expressed your thoughts very well. I admit I haven't looked at it quite like that, so thanks! New angles are always welcome.
IIRC, there were very few one-on-one conversations between Angel & Fred in Season Five. Except the memorable Hellbound confrontation in which Fred stared Angel down. And Fred's corporate contributions seemed to be limited to science things and not the important "What should we do next?" decisions, except when Angel consulted with *all* of them. So yeah, I think you're on to something here.
I couldn't resist watching The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco. And then I had to stop and think and suddenly it's 2 am.
So this is what hit me about the episode from the perspective of Season's end: the cautionary part was not that Angel would become No. 5, but that he would become Texcatcatl. Texcatcatl started out as a warrior. Not necessarily evil, since Aztecs were pretty brutal themselves (as Wes seemingly unnecessarily pointed out). Until his grab for power. It is his quest for power that made him into an evil heart-sucking monster. A vampire, in fact: immortal until his skewered-heart dusty defeat.
So, the exploration of Angel's possible paths seemed threefold to me: Texcatcatl, the power-grabber; No. 5, who lost his heart & Spike. Yep, Spike, who seemed to me to embody the true hero's path in this episode. In his little talk with Fred, Spike (honestly, I believe) shrugged off his heroism: I just stood there and let the fire come. Fred had to point out that he had saved her life before he saw it in a more heroic light.
However: what can be more heroic than taking a stand and letting the fire come? And it *is* heroic because the fire did not come from without, like some freight train barrelling toward him, but from within, his passion and his soul. It was an active choice, not the passive choice that it initially sounds like. Spike stood his ground against the forces of the Hellmouth, even as the fire he himself supplied consumed him, with no thought of an afterwards or a reward, just because it was right and he believed it would save the people he loved.
From that scene with Fred and Spike, we cut to Angel awkwardly bothering Wes about finding out more on the heart-sucking monster. So that he can stop him. Because that's what he does. Certainly heroes do that. But so do warriors. So, not inherently heroic, here. It echoes what seems to many of us S'cubies to be Angel's problem of late: he beats the bad guys, he doesn't save people, except as a consequence of his bad-guy beating.
I believe that No. 5 *did* become a hero in the end. Not because he was instrumental in killing Texcatcatl (he wasn't, except indirectly), but because he entered the fight to save Angel and in doing so, lost his own life. So Angel seems to be doing the reverse of the hero-thing: he's supposed to save people first and beat the bad guys only as a consequence of the saving. Not the other way around.
Oh, and Texcatcatl? He'll be back. His defeat wasn't the point. The fight against him was the point. I believe it's the point of the entire series, in fact: you can never stop fighting.
I hope the above makes as much sense as it did when I first sat down to write it.
And there was a bunch more stuff about head (Angel & Wes & No. 5) vs. heart (Spike & Fred), but: 2:30 am.
This thought occurred to me after I finished my main post on The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco: in this episode, both Spike and Angel want the Shanshu. But, I think, for different reasons. Spike wants the Shanshu so that he can live. Angel wants the Shanshu so that he can die.
When Angel watched No. 5 fade away in the company of his beloved brothers, it seemed that THIS was his idea of a final reward -- to die in the arms of his family. I feel as though it is not the heroism, but the *final* reward that reawakens his interest in the Shanshu.
I hope I'm wrong. But if I'm not, then maybe the signing away of the Shanshu in the end was not such a bad thing for Angel.
Why yes, I had this thought at 4am. Does it show?
Also: In my earlier Numero Cinco post, I mentioned that I thought the "Cautionary" applied to Texcatcatl and not No. 5. So the "Numero 5" in the title could actually apply to AtS Season 5 instead. The episode was a microcosm of the Angel issues they dealt with throughout the entire season.
I'm having much retroactive increased respect for Jeffrey Bell.
And thank you for your kind words, beccaelizabeth, cal, Sara, Anne, Julia, Karen, Lola, Erin and anyone else I have unintentionally missed. I hope you don't live to regret encouraging me... And an essay? Scary. to Nan, Spring, Sara, Erin, Sue, Vlad & other analysis goddesses and gods for their wonderful, insightful work. This stuff doesn't feel finished yet, and I am not absolutely certain that it will stand up after a full season's re-watch.
Linda, will you look at the time -- I am so consistent
P.S. Yes, Sue, I have posted this in Nan's thread, too
Oh, absolutely. Love your thoughts here, especially about Texcatcatl (and your ability to spell his name; there's reasons I'm an archaeologist and not a linguitist): he becomes corrupted when he seeks personal power.
Numero 5 becomes discouraged when he loses his brothers in arms.
And Spike "just lets the fire come": he puts himself in the way of harm without knowing what will happen (which I find infinitely more brave than putting on the amulet knowing exactly what would happen would have been). He doesn't try to make things happen. He reacts impeccably when faced with choices but he doesn't try to force the choices.
(Here, interrupted by the news at the top of the hour, I rose and hassled with blue eyed family members and was thereby distracted from what I meant to say. Darn reality).
Sorry about the computer problems. We're nursing a geriatric Performa but it's quite possible it will only be "fixed" by replacing the hard drive and the motherboard.
Julia, alas, alas, thus passes the old order
I think you described Spike's heroism better than I did.
Thanks for the compliments and computer commiseration.