Not Fade Away

Not Fade Away

By The Royal Anna

Thereís an analytical head on me, wants to break things down, find out why they work the way they do, loves the tiny bits and pieces of human interaction, of motivation, of relationships.

Thereís a Ė metaphysical, I guess? - head on me, wants to step back and play with the background, the great themes that wrap stories in their wake.

Thereís a fangirl head on me, wants to sit and love my characters, wants to relish every minute, wants to delight in it, mostly wants to squee.

Thereís a critical head on me, could detach from the story, tell you how dramatically, thematically, heres and theres might have been different.

I could tell you this story any one of those ways, but Iíd be lying to you. Because I think in the end what it came down to, this rich, glorious universe I have shared in and loved, was this.

I watched it. That was enough.

Because over the years I have watched this story being told, it has been my privilege to laugh, to cry, to care, to think, to be challenged, to be moved, to be inspired. Last night, at the end, it was my privilege to be there.

It was enough.

Where to begin? Strange to talk of beginnings, here at the end of the story, except the story doesnít end. Stories donít, not real stories. And this story is real. It is real because real people watched it, real people cared about it, real people dared to let themselves be changed by it. The best stories are true beyond the telling of them. They are the way we make sense of the world we live in, the way we share that, and yes, they matter.

Iíve always loved Angel differently to the way I loved Buffy. Once upon a time I said that Buffy was character-driven where Angel is theme-driven, that sometimes in Angel it felt like the characters were subservient to the story. And now I start to see that that was the point of Angel; that it was about characters trying to be bigger than the story they were in. It was a battle, character versus story, and the answer was always that you could only fight your story so far. That in the end youíd have to seize your story, whichever point of that story youíd find yourself at, and make it yours. I think thatís what Angel leaves with me. Itís your story. Tell it.

Iím not big on endings. Closure is not a word I have any use for. Because itís a strange illusion, and a sad one, I think, that tries to make us believe that life is containable, that we can tie up bits of it and put them aside. Why take something so big and make it so small?

Iíve said it before, but you canít try and find in endings what youíve never found previously. Donít tell me that your character deserved a more satisfactory death. A what? So a sweetly-timed, neatly-staged death makes a pretty story sometimes, but I donít want my fiction to tell me that death is ever satisfactory.

But ending or not, this is the point we have to step back. This is the point we let go. And itís hard to let go of these characters, these characters so much loved, so often inspiring. I loved that they grew, that they faltered, that they fell. I loved that the journey each of them took mattered more than where they started out and wherever they might end up.

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same

Anne. Wasnít it nice to see her again? And there in that one character, everything that made the Buffyverse extraordinary. Because sheís just a bit-part character, a character weíve had only a handful of episodes to get to know, and yet what a story sheís had to tell us. And the girl who lost her identity as Chanterelle, as Lily, took the identity Buffy had adopted and made the imaginary Anne real. If nothing we do matters, all that matters is what we do. She reminds us of that here, in her actions, and her words, and in who she is.

Lindsey and Angel. Given that we were all slashing Angel and Lindsey before any of us knew what slash was (you know Iím joking. Slash is older than I am, of that I am sure), had the ho!yay! here been laid on with anything less than a trowel it would have been a disappointment. I love the chemistry between those two; have loved every minute of it.

Lindsey with the sword. Oh yeah.

Lorne and Lindsey. Just devastating. And particularly in the context of times past, of a moment I will always hold dear, a moment that went like this: "He used to come here all the time before some caballero chopped off his strumming hand." Now some other caballero shoots him dead. (Hereís my only quibble with the episode. Lorne! Could you not have shot him after heíd made good his offer to sing for you?) And itís a stark reminder that cometh the hour Angel isnít the hero he once wanted to be, the hero who can put the whole world to rights. Why doesnít Lindsey get a chance? We know that he should, that Angel of all people should know that, but as I said last episode, this is about making the choices you have to make. And itís not so much about whether those choices are right or wrong, as it is about shouldering responsibility. Choosing because not to choose would be the worst choice you could make.

If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools

My darling Lorne. So jaded, so sad, and my heart breaks for him, right now. But heíll go on, and one day, heíll find hope again. Or maybe hope will find him. Because life goes up, life goes down, but above everything life goes on.

Gunn! I squeaked at just about every moment Gunn had this episode, because, goodness, thereís my boy. So. Freakin'. Cool. And here's a line from Waiting in the Wings that sums it all up beautifully, a line from a Gunn spellbound by the ballet performance he was watching. "That would explain the precision and the athleticism. I mean, some of those jumps were - you know, I was cool before I met you all." And oh, he was cool here, that precision, that athleticism. That courage. Iíll be so interested to see what J August Richards does next. His is such a very likeable screen presence. Most of the other characters won my love the hard way, but Gunn I always found myself siding with just because.

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss

Wes, oh Wes. Wes that had his throat slit and survived, Wes that was tortured and beaten up and battered, over and over, and always came out fighting, Wes dead just like that? Wes so alone, so wrapped in his own despair, in his own, devastating hope, and above everything the weight of responsibility that he will let crush him before he ever lets it go. And yet not alone. A handshake with Gunn, a look shared with Angel, and in Illyria a friend that even now can hold him up, can be his inspiration, can make him believe that what he has to say is still worth sharing. And I am moved beyond the telling at Wes seeking solace in truth, and finding more than solace, and more than truth. Because which truth matters more? The truth that the girl he loves is there holding him in her arms and will stay with him ever after? Or the truth that a demon goddess loves him enough, in that moment, to care beyond her nature and beyond her story; loves him enough to offer him a lie and make that lie the truth? Reality bends to desire.

Illyria. Iíve loved Amy Ackerís stories of how sheíd set the whole cast off crying during this final shoot. But if Fredís tears moved me, Illyriaís tears as she stands raring to kick some more ass absolutely broke me. And the moment with Gunn, the "try not to die," the unsaid echo in his reply, was so right and so fitting.

And now I come to the two boys I loved best, and I donít know if I still have the words.

Spike making his peace with William. I love that he can be a good man and still be a bad poet. And a magnificent poet. Because only Spike could be both at once, and because this is a poem lived, and breathed, and worn with a grace nobody else could match.

Midnight descends in raven-colour'd clothes
But soft - behold! - a sunlight beam
MCutting a swath of glimmering gleam
My heart expands - 'tis grown a bulge in't
Inspired by your beauty...effulgent.

A poem for Cecily, that is a poem about Drusilla; about his turning; about Buffy; about a moment on the hellmouth when a vampire with a soul gave everything he had to save the world; about everything that makes him who he is.

Spike looking hot-as-hell in a hood; Spike volunteering to deny Angel three times; Spike throwing everything into a fight and yet taking the tenderest care of the baby in his arms Ė and isnít that Spike, right there? Ė Spike knowing exactly what to say to a mortally wounded Gunn Ė what do I need to say about Spike that he doesnít say for himself?

Also? I love me some drunk Spike.

And then, Angel making his peace with Angelus. How long have we watched, and waited, while he struggled to come to terms with what he was, with who he is? His story matters. Hamilton tells Angel he would have been nothing if he hadnít been made a vampire. And at last we see Angel acknowledge that, acknowledge that redemption is not about escaping from his story, but grabbing his story with both hands. Itís your story, Angel. Tell it.

Angel and Connor. Since Origin I have lost the ability to put into words all that that relationship says to me. It snuck up on me. I sit there watching the two of them, and I glow. And itís more than a fuzzy TV warmth of a story turned out nice again. Itís something that matters infinitely more than that, a story about hope, about love, about the great scale in the universe that sometimes dares to tip the other way.

(Oh! This is my only other quibble. After the "You girl!" line, these lines got cut: "Good penmanship used to be a sign of masculinity." "When? Like, in the eighteenth century?" "The latter half.")

Connorís entrance at the end? That may be my favourite moment ever. Among hundreds of favourite moments ever.

So. Still with me?

This is a story thatís personal to me, deeply so, and I say that because I donít mean it to be anything more than that. Itís about me, about what this episode said to me, not a statement about anybody else or anything anyone was meant to take from it. Itís a story about a point in my life where sometimes living seemed bleak and hopeless and impossibly hard. And often enough, at those times Ė and they were rare Ė Iíd find myself standing on the bridge looking over the river, mesmerised, or sitting at my window looking three floors down to the ground. And never, ever with an intention to do Ė simply in acknowledgment of the thought. But Iíd hate that the thought Ė the feeling - would be there. And then one day it hit me, and it was never the magic solution that made it all go away, but it made a difference, I think. I didnít want to die; I wanted to jump.

Even now, I come back to that sometimes. I want to jump. I can live with that, because jumping is about living. Is about risking your neck to live, sometimes. Wanting to be out of the situation you are in is not a death wish. Thereís a lot of Buffy Season 6 in that, and Iíll come back to that another day.

You see, what is this ending about? Underneath all the brilliant gestures, the brave words, really, why? Because we could argue that the bottom line is theyíve all lost so much they donít have a lot left to live for, that what theyíre really doing is playing out some kind of death wish.

I talked a lot more about my take on it last episode, and I wonít repeat it all here. But I also know that what I saw here was this band of very dear, very brave warriors, this happy few, risking their necks not to die but to live. To jump. And maybe their giant leap is just a small, small step for mankind, but while they can live they will live, and they will do it hard, and in that, they will make their story count.

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

I think I quoted Forster after the Buffy finale, too, but thereís a line from A Room with a View that sticks in my head. Another bridge, another river, two characters discussing the murder theyíve just witnessed. And she says to him, how quickly we forget, how quickly life takes up where it leaves off. But he says, not for him, that for him it matters, that it changes him. And he says,

"I shall want to live."

Iím reminded so much of that here, although I can only just put my finger on why.

Iím saving the very end until the very end, because logic is a beautiful thing, but I have to say this first.

For all the cast and crew who gave us a show we wonít forget. For everyone that helped make this fandom rich and beautiful and extraordinary; for your words, your thoughts, your pictures; for the time and the effort and the care put into fanfic, into art, into discussion. For the moments we couldnít agree, and the moments we couldnít but agree. For you.

Thank you. I mean that more than I know how to say.

Angel is so often referred to as dark. I only know this. That light is never more brilliant, more strong, more welcome than light in a pitch-dark alley in the face of an impending army hell-bent on destruction.

And nothing made me long for the Season 6 that might have been more than this, grown-up Spike and Angel in an alleyway having a grown-up conversation, that relationship that has been everything from abusive to affectionate, suddenly instinctive, understated, accepted. And my Spike-and-Angel unit that I loved became Spike and Angel, team. No hyphens.

Weíre told this was already the season finale when the series was cancelled. Who knows where a Season 6 might have taken us, what might have been done, what might have been undone? All I know is that the story Iíve been told, all twelve seasons of it, is something I will always be grateful for. A story of hope, of love, of sometimes overwhelming joy in the face of sometimes overwhelming disaster. A story that goes out on a note of triumph, of celebration, not of death, but of life. Life that can end. The awfulness, the gloriousness of mortality.

And what an image to go out on. That image of Angel there at the end will stay with me for ever, I think. Wow. Just wow.

I have seen so many incredible stories about great, epic battles between good and evil. Iíve seen that dark army advance so many times, and itís always been about the battle, the cost, the outcome. Itís always been about who won, about how they won.

Last night, I saw that turned on its head. I sat there and saw the show that told me you donít have to be good enough to beat them to be good enough. I saw the show that told me a handful of fighters standing up in the face of evil is threat enough to burst the gates of hell. I saw the show that told me that what matters is not what you achieve, but what you do.

I saw a show that dared to stand there and tell me you are enough.

So to a show that has brought me to my knees more times than any TV show has a right to, last night you brought me to my feet.

Iím still on my feet.

What a show. I mean, what a show.

The End

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