By D.M. Evans
Disclaimer - All characters discussed in this essay are the property of Joss Whedon and WB. Summary - A biased look at the implications of "Home" and my thoughts on what season five might hold.
I've been giving some hard thought to "Home", what it says about our 'champions' and its implications for next year. This essay makes no attempts at being objective. These are my personal feelings on the matter. I'm going to leave aside most of what happened to Connor in "Home" and what his absence means to Angel since that could be a rant and half on its own. For this essay let me just say, I am so tired with the deus ex machina solutions to all of M.E.'s problems. If they needed Connor to be gone, they could have come up with a hundred better ways that didn't leave them with so many gaping plot holes and things that made us question the intelligence of our heros.
For this treatise, I was more interested in exploring the temptations offered by Wolfram and Hart individually and to examine what I think might be the roles of our heroes come this fall. In other words, what does working for Wolfram and Hart mean for A.I and do they even have a reason at all for honoring a contract that legally isn't binding? For those of you who want to remain spoiler-free stop reading now. There will be spoilers in this as I already know more than I wanted to and am uneasy for what the future holds for this show.
The biggest question is, how are the A.I. members going to feel about Angel signing them over to Wolfram and Hart? Yes, they all seemed like they were going to sign on under their own volition, except for perhaps Fred, but who wants to bet when things go bad, they're going to put the blame on Angel for making his 'executive decision.' I'm sure this will be back to bite him in the butt and I wouldn't be surprised if it drove off all of Angel's friends, especially because he can't say what prompted him to make his decision. Is someone going to wonder what kind of contract Angel signed for them and how is it possible they believed an evil law firm dedicated to ruling a post-apocalyptic world managed to change so completely so fast?
Angel, at least, has two good reasons to stay with Wolfram and Hart: Connor and Cordelia. Angel's temptation is the easiest to understand and the most noble of the reasons to accept the offer. He has to make sure that Wolfram and Hart's solution to Connor's blossoming psychosis remains untampered with. Obviously, he's forgotten his son was prophesied about and unless Wolfram and Hart has made Connor human, Angel has just unleashed a potentially deadly teenager on the world. Does he think that a happy Connor won't get into a college brawl some night partying? Imagine what would happen then. Hopefully, he'll begin to see all the ways that this can blow up in his face.
Angel also has Cordelia to consider. Now, we know she won't be back but even though Charisma won't be making appearances (at least not according to the news at the time of this writing), there's no reason Cordelia can't be mentioned, at least as far as her progress is concerned. Angel has a good reason in dealing with Wolfram and Hart to help heal Cordelia. Granted, we're off to a lousy start. By all means, make a manicure and hair styling the top priority for a coma victim who has received no medical treatment for days. I guess the reality of catherization, feeding tubes and bed sore prevention isn't as romantic as Wolfram and Hart whisking her away to the beauty salon.
So, Angel, out of all of A.I., has a good reason to stay with Wolfram and Hart. Hopefully, it'll occur to him to wonder how Wolfram and Hart not only recovered from the Beast's slaughter but came back stronger than before.
Wes has perhaps the least reason to stay. Wes' main reason for going to Wolfram and Hart is gone. He wanted to save Lilah's soul. His temptation wasn't the fantastic library. No, he was after something far more selfless. Now that he knows that he can't do that, what impetus does he have to stay? Loyalty to people who are still treating him as an outsider? I wonder if he'll even know why there is tension between him and the others. After all, he no longer kidnapped Connor but Angel knows he did. Angel has to blame Wes, at least a little, for all that's happened but Wes will have no idea why. I can't imagine the tension between him and Angel will disappear just like that, nor the tension between him, Fred and Gunn . Will the access to that library be enough? Only if they decide to make Wes incredibly shallow. After all, he's been fighting the good fight without that and he knows how some of Wolfram and Hart's contracts work. How could anyone believe they've changed if they're dragging the dead from their grave in a form of soul-bound slavery? (Hence my worries about the dumbing down of our heros.)
And what role would Wes play? In theory, Wes was in charge of A. I., not Angel. No replacement was ever chosen after Wes kidnapped Connor and A.I. was functioning with Angel as the de facto leader. Wes wasn't put in charge of Wolfram and Hart. He's hardly needed for research, not with the ridiculously big staff at Wolfram and Hart (and does not one member of A.I. wonder about how a law firm decimated by the Beast not only comes back but it's three times its former size working out of something like a sterile mall?). Fred's Mary Sue brain power makes Wes' knowledge superfluous. Despite his new-found battle skills, he's nothing in comparison to Angel or Gunn, so he's not the muscle. You can't be the heart of a group when you're the outsider. All I can think is Wes is the one who does the actual detecting for the group. I suspect he'll be the one bringing those who need help to Angel's attention and doing the daylight work Angel can't.
Moving on to Gunn, let me examine what reasons he might have for staying with Wolfram and Hart. Out of all the characters, he had to be dumbed down the most to make this alliance possible. For a man who wanted to prove he was smarter than his friends thought he was, he certainly acted like a moron following his little head into action after Lacey Shepard, his tour guide. Why is it every time Gunn starts talking about being taken seriously as an intelligent man, they have him falling all over a woman, acting like a horny teenager, totally negating any intelligence he might have?
We have Gunn apparently signing on even before Angel volunteered him. It certainly looked like he was bonding with that panther, which is a symbol of strength, not intelligence. I wouldn't be surprised if he is now taking the place of the little girl guardian of the white room, the Ratet replacement so to speak. Thanks to a spoiler, I know Gunn's supposed to be handed enough knowledge to play lawyer by a 'doctor.' Joss mentioned Gunn's all 'grown up and wearing suits' (Joss, those two are not interchangeable). So, I guess that means he has reasons to stay with Wolfram and Hart. But it also means Gunn is lost to his fans already. He's been mutated into something Gunn fans won't recognize. Gunn's street smarts, his more earthy connections and his quick wit were what made Gunn, Gunn. How will his friends react to this new and dubiously 'improved' Gunn? That, at least could be interesting to see. So, with his artificially implanted and forced 'growth' (hello, M.E., do you understand that fans prefer to see a character actually grow rather than have you magic them into something new?), Gunn has a definite place with Wolfram and Hart.
Fred has almost as much reason as Wes to not work for Wolfram and Hart. She has to know she's a source of tension for the team, what with her having flirted with all the male members of the cast barring Connor and Lorne. Yes, she's been over Angel for a long time now but she is still obviously torn between Wes and Gunn; that is going to be nothing but trouble.
More importantly Fred looked like she didn't want to sign on. She should be infuriated with Angel at this point. Will she try to walk away or will she just descend into Mary Sue Hell even more than she already has? Will the idea of having a lab to run be enough to hold Fred to Wolfram and Hart? Or will she wake up and say, 'hey, this is a bio-chemical lab and I'm a physicist. I don't even know what this stuff is for?' (Sorry, I hold degrees in biology and chemistry and I know from experience our sciences are quite different from what Fred would be versed in). Even as an inventor of things, she's got the wrong lab set up. And do we need another science geek, Knox, added to the mix to make Wes even more superfluous?
As for Lorne, well given the extreme shallowness displayed by his character in signing on, it's really pointless to discuss him and whether or not he has a reason to stay on with Wolfram and Hart. He didn't sign on to do good with science or to access arcane libraries or for the chance to enhance his brain power or even to use his own given psychic talents. No, he signed on to meet stars and act like a queeny fan boy, so I'm willing to concede Lorne is a shameless schmoozer and will stick with Wolfram and Hart to improve his star groupie status and maybe take over for Cordy's visions, if we're lucky.
Let's have a look at some of the minor characters, both established and those to be introduced this coming season, and how they might deal with being Wolfram and Hart affiliates. It's possible Lilah will be back occasionally. She is, of course, inextricably bound to the firm and no further discussion is needed on her. I hope that we do see her again since she was always a fun villianess.
Spike's main purpose, according to Joss, is to be the voice of reason (Spike?), and shake up the team, further illustrating ME's near-sightedness when it comes to creating conflict. They seem convinced the only path to story conflict is to break up a team that works well and mess up the characters totally (shouldn't the considerably lower ratings of Buffy S6-7 been a clue?). Rather than creating good solid storylines with outside conflicts, we once again have the inside agitators.
Even though I've been a huge Spike fan throughout the years (barring the last two), I'm not happy with his presence on Angel at all. To me, it's like WB has little respect for the intelligence of the viewers, like we won't see this as a blatant attempt to snag new viewers. The writing staff have been very vocal in their displeasure over being forced to put Spike in every episode as per WB's orders (for journalistic 'proof' check out any and all the genre magazines). It's like WB is saying Angel's ratings aren't good enough so we have to help it by dragging over Spike fans. Once again, the producers just don't get that most of the Angel fans are not Spike fans and they're risking losing loyal viewers over this, which will actually harpoon their ratings (well, as further proof of this general lack of understanding on the part of most producers and executives, take a look at ABC's cost cutting measures for The Practice. They removed all the actors and put in new ones. I guess the executives don't get fans at all). Judging by the forums, fans are split. Some are excited by Spike's additions. However, a large portion of fandom seem to see things as I do. Spike's addition is a case of the Emperor's New Clothing.
Of course, this doesn't actually address what Spike's involvement with Wolfram and Hart will be. Marsters himself does not want Spike to Shanshu. He thinks that would be a terrible insult to the show. I have no idea what they'll do with Spike. If he is human as the spoilers say, he can't be the muscle. He can't be wanted there. Angel only ever tolerated Spike at best when he was Angelus. The only thing I can see is that Spike used to be good at planning capers. They rarely worked as planned but he was using substandard help. I could see him in that role, at least. Now, if Spike remains a vampire, which he is in the season five promotional pictures, he at least would bring his supernatural abilities to the table, making him somewhat valuable. The questions remain as to does he still have a chip and a soul after what happened to him?
Spoilers have Harmony taking Cordy's place as receptionist and this is absolutely mind-numbing. Surely Lorne could have done this. Why do we even need this role to be filled with a name character? Wolfram and Hart is huge. They have dozens of receptionists. Harmony has always been a poor man's Cordelia. The last time she helped Angel, she betrayed the team and joined a cult. Why in the world would they ever trust her? They'd be stupid to. Worse, Harmony's a weak-willed idiot. I can't see Wolfram and Hart depending on her for anything. Even taking phone calls at a law office is important. Harmony might be a people person but she's a flake. It smacks of WB/ME bringing in someone to play off of Spike which makes me fear that, just like on Buffy, Spike will get elevated above all the other characters and their stories will get sidelined.
The one character who might return and I've very excited about, is Lindsey MacDonald. I missed Lindsey and he, of course, has strong ties to Wolfram and Hart. In light of Lilah's recent fate, many questions surface in regards to Lindsey. How did he escape Wolfram and Hart? Did they just let him go? Does he have a different contract than Lilah? I sure hope so. But this is what I mean by outside conflict. Lindsey isn't a member of the team seeking to cause as much chaos as possible. Oh, he's out for chaos but he's on the other side.
So do the characters have reason to stay with Wolfram and Hart? Some yes, some no. Do I think this is going to be a good move creatively? No, not in the least. It might make for a good story line but I'm honestly not hopeful for it. They're changing too much, too fast and bringing in characters that don't belong in a blatant marketing ploy that is grating enough to make me want to find something else to do on a Wednesday night. This feels like a creative misstep in the worst possible way.
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